Report from UNISON National Retired Members Conference, Brighton Centre, Brighton, 6 – 7 October 2015.
This report is by Ron Kerr from Dundee City Branch
I was fortunate to represent our Branch at this conference. I travelled to Brighton on 5 October and enjoyed a stimulating few days listening to, and joining in, debates on areas of interest to older UNISON members.
The first day, 6 October, started with registration. I then attended a debate on the proposed Transatlantic Treaty and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Speakers from UNISON, Friends of the Earth and Global Watch outlined the threat it poses to aspects of our society, including, the NHS, trade union rights, standards, human rights. It allows multinationals to take action against governments in secret tribunals if their profits are under threat. I then went on to a meeting of Scottish delegates where we discussed motions on the main agenda which had particular relevance for Scotland. The day finished at around 6.30 pm.
Conference opened at 9.30 am on 7 October with welcome addresses from Wendy Nicholls, Chair of Conference and President of UNISON, followed by Linda Hyde, Mayor of Brighton and Hove.
Before the agenda proper commenced an emergency motion was discussed condemning the callous remarks about pensioners and their travel/heating allowances, made to the Conservative conference by a Mr Wild of the Tory supporting Taxpayers Alliance.
He suggested abolishing the pensioner heating and travel allowances and went on to say that the Tories didn’t have to worry about losing older peoples’ votes because many of the people affected by these cuts would either be dead or have forgotten who did it. This motion was passed unanimously.
Conference then debated pensions including protection of existing benefits, opposition to two tier pensions, campaign for a living pension and equal pensions for women.
A wide discussion on health and social care then followed. I spoke in support of a motion from the South East Region concerning age discrimination in the treatment of prostate cancer in some parts of NHS England.
I outlined the excellent care I got at Ninewells which helped to illustrate the “lottery” which can occur between geographical and/or treatment areas. Other issues discussed were dementia services, NHS out of hours services, older people and the NHS, carer’s allowances, after care, and dignity in later life and end of life/death. The quality of the debate and some of the expertise on display, regarding the NHS and care sector, was impressive.
The afternoon session opened with an address from Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON.
He provided some interesting statistics about retired members in UNISON. There are now 170,946 of us in the union, equalling 12,000 years of TU experience. He outlined his appreciation of the involvement of, and work done by retired members.
Dave then attacked the ongoing, ideologically driven campaign by the Tory Party to destroy the union movement. The current government is the most extreme in his lifetime. As such our union has to fight this all the way.
After Dave’s speech Conference supported motions calling for universal benefits, including travel and heating allowances, to be protected. A discussion on communication and organisation within UNISON followed. There was particular concern about action not being taken quickly enough on motions passed. Changes to rules were then proposed which would give retired members a greater role at branch level. Conference ended with a discussion on recruitment, and how our section could help with this.
It wasn’t all work. There was also a social element involved. The Brighton Hotel was excellent with friendly staff. Also managed to join other delegates for evening meals, then we returned to the Hotel bar and put the world to rights!
Many thank to the branch for agreeing to fund a Retired Members delegate to this Conference.
Ron Kerr Retired Members Section
The Warm Home Discount
If you’re experiencing difficulty with your fuel bills and are looking for help, here is some support in place to help you.
The Warm Home Discount (WHD) is a new scheme, funded by energy suppliers, to provide direct and indirect financial support to vulnerable energy consumers up to 2015.
The WHD replaces social tariffs and voluntary arrangements previously offered by energy suppliers, and separates households that are eligible into two groups. Those remaining in receipt of support from their energy companies will now be allocated to either the core or broader groups.
If you think you may be eligible for the WHD, there are some things you can do: Contact your energy supplier. Energy companies have a statutory obligation to take customers’ circumstances into consideration. They will be able to:
- Confirm your eligibility for support under the Warm Home Discount.
- Assess whether or not you could be on a tariff that better suits your needs and energy use.
- Provide free or subsidised insulation, or advice on making the home more efficient if you’re not eligible.
You may be required to provide personal information in order for your supplier to assess your eligibility for support. It’s important you’re not put off by this, as they are required to do this by the UK Government and any information you provide will be treated confidentially.
This confidential information is how energy companies identify customers that are eligible for the Core Group, which is composed of customers that need greater support to reduce their energy bills.
The Core Group
The Core Group should have automatically received a letter from the UK Department of Work for Pensions by late 2011 or early 2012. If you think you meet the qualifying criteria but don’t receive a letter, contact your supplier to ensure they have your correct name and address details.
The qualifying criteria for the Core Group are detailed in the table below:
|2011/12||Households in receipt of guarantee element of Pension Credit||£120|
|2012/13||Households in receipt of guarantee element of Pension Credit and over 80 and in receipt of savings element of Pension Credit||£130|
|2013/14||Households in receipt of guarantee element of Pension Credit and over 75 and in receipt of savings element of Pension Credit||£135|
|2014/15||All households in receipt of guarantee and savings element of Pension Credit||£140|
Consumers should contact their supplier directly if they feel they may qualify for assistance under the Broader Group, and some suppliers are actively seeking out customers who they feel may qualify.
You will need to provide proof of your entitlement to the qualifying benefits, and suppliers will have more details about this process.
The companies engaged in the WHD Scheme are Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, Scottish Power, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.
Apologies to Age Scotland for any mis-quotes (Mae Stewart) ——————————————————————————————————–
Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus. Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.