Retired members conference October 2019

RETIRED MEMBERS CONFERENCE 2/October/2019 Southport

 

Section ONE – Prioritised Motions

MOTION 7 – NATIONAL INSURANCE AND THE STATE PENSION

This was an appeal for fairness in the State Pension arrangements.   The Government must be pressed to increase the minimum State Pension for all to the level of the minimum income standard given that the National Insurance Fund (from which State Pensions are paid increased in value last year by £2bn to £26.2 bn.   The Government are reluctant to consider this given that the Fund is borrowed from for other public expenditure projects.​​​​​CARRIED

COMPOSITE B – Motions 13,14 and 15 – HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE PROVISION

This motion acknowledged that the creeping policy of privatisation had seriously affected the standards and availability of Health and Social Care Provision for Older People.   It called for the continuation of the campaign against privatisation and adoption of the principles of UNISON’s Ethical Care and Residential Care Charters.​​​​​​CARRIED

COMPOSITE F – Motions 5, 21 and 21.1 – UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MIXED AGE COUPLES

From 15 May 2019, mixed aged couples applying for benefit are only awarded if both partners are of pensionable age, leaving some couples up to £7,000 a year worse off.   Worse still claims have to be made on-line which is problematical for many.   The motion called for joint co-operation with the NPC and other unions to co-ordinate efforts against these changes.​​​CARRIED

MOTION 23 YOUNG PEOPLE NEED HELP

But not at the expense of older people said the motion.  This was prompted by the House of Lords suggestion on Intergenerational Fairness and to achieve this their Lordships recommended the removal of the triple lock on State Pensions and the phasing out of free TV licences, the free bus passes and the winter fuel payments.  Conference agreed to campaign with Age UK and others to revoke these recommendations and get support from the Young Members Group.​CARRIED

COMPOSITE D – Motions 29, 29.1 and 30 – CELEBRATE THE BUS PASS AND THE BUS

The frequency of buses and disappearing routes have led to a drop in the living standards of many older people and the motion called for the reinstatement of these services as a vital social and economic benefit.   Some local initiatives such as combining local services with school transport is applauded and commended.   Another idea for car users is to drive to Park and Ride sites where available to avoid hospital car parking charges.​​​​​​CARRIED

 

 

COMPOSITE C – Motions 18,19 and 20) – AUSTERITY AND DEFENDING OLDER PEOPLE

‘Austerity is now over’ claimed former Prime Minister Teresa May.   The evidence of that claim is not apparent.   Much of the content of this debate mirrored that of Motion 23 previously debated and carried.   The living standards of our older people must be defender and if possible improved.  More campaigning against the proposed abolition of old age benefits as set out in Motion 23 is required throughout the Union movement.​​​​​​​CARRIED

MOTION 22 – TV LICENCES FOR THE OVER 75’s

This motion called for defence of this Universal Benefit.   An early day motion called for has to date received in excess of 135,000 signatures and will be presented in due course.   Delegates were urged to call for further support for the campaign via their local Labour Link.​​​CARRIED

MOTION 8 – ENSURE THAT VOLUNTEERS DO NOT UNDERMINE NHS STAFF

This National Committee motion roused rather unexpected opposition from delegates.   A lively debate took place commending the unpaid volunteer work that underpins much of the day to day running of the NHS.  A charter to strengthen the relationship between the NHS and ‘Helpforce’ organised by Trade Unions was not considered suitable for purpose.​​​LOST

MOTION 31 – DECLINING PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The effect on older people of an increasing decline in Public Transport was having a devastating effect – particularly in rural areas.   Two amendments that strengthened the motion were quickly adopted and the mover then went on to outline the effects of the decline – especially on the elderly and disabled.   The motion called for the renationalisation of public transport – an objective likely to be in the next Labour Party’s Queens Speech!​​​​CARRIED AS AMENDED

MOTION 37 – UNISON CHARTER FOR OLDER PEOPLE

This motion called for a revision of the existing Charter and a plea for the ‘younger’ older people not to be forgotten, the ranks of which included those forced to retire early because of ill-health.   Further consultation with regions and self-organised groups was called for and an adopted amendment pointed out that revision has been requested regularly for several years.   Action on this is required now with report back to next year’s Conference.​​CARRIED AS AMENDED

Section TWOAmendments to Standing Orders

COMPOSITE A and EM TWO – AMENDMENT TO STANDING ORDERS

This Composite coupled together a procedural process and an Emergent Motion on Unfinished Business at the end of a Conference and was discussed as a Group debate.   It related to the alleged failure of the National Committee to deal with unfinished business after a Conference.   It sought to instruct the NRMC to seek further guidance on this matter and report back.​​CARRIED

(note that only eleven motions/composites were heard in the morning session of conference)

MOTION 1 – AMENDMENT TO STANDING ORDER SO2.1

This rule change varied the arrangements for the appointment of the Retired Members Standing Orders Committee.​​​​​​​​​CARRIED

 

Section THREEPensions

MOTION 4 – WITHHELD AND UNCLAIMED BENEFITS

The desperately sad case of an 81 years old pensioner who committed suicide after she was deprived of her State Pension and Winter Fuel Allowance because of an administrative error by the DHSS vividly highlighted the problems being experienced by a small number of older people.   They can not easily access advice and reticent about discussing their financial affairs with friends, family and faceless officials.   There is also a worrying concern about unclaimed benefits by pensioners who find their rights hard to understand and even more difficult to claim.   Conference called for adequately staffed and trained DWP operatives and a properly funded Local authority Welfare Rights Service.​​​​​​​​​​CARRIED

MOTION 6 – EQUAL PENSION

Attention was drawn to the totally unsatisfactory arrangements regarding equal pension rights affecting same sex couples and those in civil partnerships.  Primary domestic legislation is required to enact this request, and this should be pursued by the NEC, the UNISON SOG groups’ committees and the National Labour Link Committee.​​​​​​CARRIED

Section FOURHealth and Care

MOTION 16 – THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL CARE

The Government has been prosing a Green Paper on Social Care for more than two years.   The motion suggested that such a document would only delay much needed action and called for something to be done immediately.  The recommendations of Composite B (discussed and agreed earlier in the Conference) should be pursued and Branches and RM Committees should engage with the TUC and Age UK towards achieving this objective.​​​​​CARRIED

MOTION 10 – STANDARDS IN THE ELDERLY IN CARE

This motion was prompted by a recent disturbing report from the local Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland saying that abuse and neglect in one Care Home in Dunmurry has been identified and this is seen as ‘the tip of the iceberg’ across the UK.   The motion called for raising awareness of this potential problem and taking steps to alert the appropriate authorities to pay close attention to required standards.​​​​​​​CARRIED

MOTION 12 – DENTAL CARE

Free dental care is becoming increasingly difficult to access and many pensioners cannot afford to pay for NHS Dental Care.   The motion called for this service to be free to all of pensionable age with the attendant benefit that dental care can identify other serious medical conditions such as oral cancer and heart disease and is therefore a useful preventative tool.​​​CARRIED

MOTION 11 – CANCER SCREENING

Breast and Bowel cancers are two of the biggest killers in the UK but both across the country have upper age screening limits.   Cervical and/or prostate cancer screening is not widely available as it should be and discriminates particularly against older people.   The motion called for an ’opt-in’ system when a user reaches the top age range of an existing programme.​​CARRIED

 

MOTION 9 – SEASONAL DEATHS

A National Committee motion giving statistics about the published national figures for winter deaths which makes grim reading.   Figures today are higher than they were 40 years ago caused by a toxic cocktail of poor housing, high energy prices and ill health all more likely to affect older people.   The motion called for this matter to be pursued with the utmost urgency by the NEC, Labour Link and the TUC.   An accepted amendment called for allowances to be restored to their pre-austerity levels and was approved.                                                                                                ​  CARRIED AS AMENDED

MOTION 17 – ROUTINE NHS HEALTH CHECKS

The early identification and diagnosis of a range of health conditions such as heart and lung problems, diabetes and early cancers can have a significant impact on life expectancy and later cost to the NHS.   The motion urged a campaign to install comprehensive personal health checks through the NHS thus avoiding the need for subsequent complicated and costly medical procedures.   An amendment to this motion was withdrawn. ​​​​​​CARRIED

Section FIVEother Campaigns and Issues

MOTION 20 – ATTACKS ON OUR BENEFITS

This Eastern Region motion suggested that Conference must be perturbed at noises coming from the Government about saving money by axing benefits such as winter fuel allowances, free bus passes etc.   The motion called on the NRMC to work with the NEC and Labour Link to encourage pensioners at the promised upcoming General Election to cast their votes for candidates who promise to oppose the attacks on our benefits.​​​​​​​CARRIED

COMPOSITE E – Motions 34, 35 and 35.1 – FRAUD AND THE ELDERLY

BBC 5 Live Investigates reported that more than 49,000 elderly people were scammed in the UK in the past year.   This is deplorable and must be arrested.   The motion instructed the NRMC to liaise with the NEC to ensure wide publicity of this report and ensure publication of the warnings about these scams in UNISON literature, to urge reporting of these incidents to Trading Standards (TS) and the Police and to report back to the 2020 NRM Conference.   A rather half-hearted appeal not to pursue reporting action because of underfunding in TS was rejected.​​​CARRIED

MOTION 32 – SENIOR RAILCARD RESTRICTIONS

Conference was asked to note some inconsistencies across the country as to when the time of the senior railcard kicking in.   The motion asked for a standard starting time of 9am.   Anapproved amendment went further and called for a concerted campaign for the removal of all restrictions about senior railcard usage.​ ​​​​​ CARRIED AS AMENDED

MOTION 33 – FREE TRAVEL PASS FOR THOSE AGED 60

This motion had prompted some reaction with two amendments submitted.   It requested the issue of a travel pass to all at the age of 60 years – not at the State Pension Age.  The first amendment called for exemptions from the proposal for London and the Isle of Man but was complicated and was rejected and the second corrected the wording of ‘men and women’ replacing that with ‘people and was added to the motion.​​​​​​CARRIED AS AMENDED

 

 

MOTION 28 – IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON OLDER PEOPLE

This motion reflected the recent and increasing impact of technology in everyday life and noted that many older people do not have or have access to a computer.   Requesting repeat NHS prescriptions was one area where recent developments were creating new problems.   The National Committee was instructed to liaise with the NEC and the NPC to address this issue and ascertain the number of Retired Members who do not have a computer.   The National Committee did not seek to amend the motion but sought qualification as to how this latter issued may be resolved.   This may require the involvement and co-operation of Branches and Regions.​​​​​CARRIED

 

It is worth noting that the afternoon session saw only a further 14 motions/composites heard meaning that only 25 of the listed 39 motions and composites (including Emergency Motions) were heard.   The remainder will be passed to the National Committee for resolution, but consideration will have to be given to trying to ensure that more business is transacted at future Conferences with time extension for debate (start Tuesday afternoon??) and a revamp of the Conference programme or by restriction of the Agenda amongst suggestions to be considered by the Standing Orders Committee and the National Committee.