THE BLOG

Addressing the Grey Vote in the Autumn Statement

16/12/2014 10:49 GMT | Updated 14/02/2015 10:59 GMT

George Osborne's recent Autumn Statement has sparked fresh debate around the impact of Government reforms and how they will affect the public's back pockets. With less than six months until the Election, house buyers and businesses have taken note of the changes to stamp duty and tax breaks, but with the 'Grey Vote' likely to play a part in deciding the outcome of many marginal seats, Osborne might be wondering if he has done enough to secure their support. When we published our Grey Pride Manifesto, we called on decision makers to ensure older people were represented fairly in society with a stronger voice in politics, housing and the workplace. This was an Autumn Statement for voters - but was it an Autumn Statement for older voters?

The stamp duty announcement will help reduce payments for a number of older people, but it was disappointing that it didn't extend to a full exemption for older people wishing to downsize.

The Government seems to be missing a trick here -exempting older people does not benefit just the over-55s. House buyers across all generations are struggling with limited housing availability. The reality is that if older people are not financially encouraged to downsize, their homes will not be available to younger generations, and first-time buyers in particular will continue to struggle to get a foot on the property ladder.

I was pleased to see the announcement of a pilot training scheme for over-50s benefit claimants to help them gain experience and skills to get back into work. Retraining older people is a hugely positive step in practically challenging society's perception of what it means to be older.

In our Grey Pride Manifesto, we called for improved education around employing and training older people, to ensure they're better valued in the workplace. Government Ministers have already spoken about the business value of hiring older workers - we're looking forward to seeing older people supported back into work.

New plans announced to transfer ISAs to spouses will help alleviate stress around savings as people get older. Further tax breaks for pensioners indicate positive steps in eradicating financial debt that older people often incur when a loved one passes away.

Financial breaks for pensioners also further emphasise the importance of younger generations planning ahead for older age as many don't realise the financial costs of getting older. Anchor's Grey Matters campaign addresses the importance of planning ahead for older age, and I'd like to see more from government to encourage this.

Whilst I welcome the limited measures to support older people introduced in the Autumn Statement, I can't help but feel it revealed a much wider political problem; an inability to fully address the needs of our aging society. That may also be the view of many organisations calling for the appointment of a Minister for Older People to represent and champion Britain's current and future older people.

Given that a child born this year is likely to live into its 90s, the issues should be higher on the political agenda.