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Caithness News Bulletins November 2004

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Highland MSP supports pensioners in older people debate.
Mary Scanlon MSP today said that any pensions debate is a far more complex issue than simply stating that there should be a rise in pensions.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mary said; "Help the Aged state that 'means testing creates a complex and bureaucratic system with 145,000 pensioners in Scotland who are entitled to pension credit not receiving it.'

She further commented; 'many pensioners with moderate incomes still feel they are little better off than those who never saved, stating that means testing could also dis-incentivise saving for young people.

"And for pensioners who wish to continue working, every 1 of earnings would reduce their pension credit by 40 pence, effectively taxing the poorest pensioners at the highest rate of income tax."

Mary used the debate to highlight issues that arose in a survey carried out by the Highland Senior Citizens' network entitled "Better support for Older People in the Highlands" on issues that can be addressed in the Scottish Parliament.

She highlighted the state of chiropody services in the Highlands, where over 1000 people have been taken off the NHS list in the Highlands, and many more have had their appointments cut, as the service is privatised with no regard to patient need or ability to pay.

Commenting, Mary said; "If we audited the health benefits per public pound into chiropody services it may well rate the highest, given that quality foot care keeps elderly people mobile and independent, and trained podiatrists can pick up other problems which can then be referred to other specialists.

Mary also highlighted the issues surrounding Care Homes and Long Term care saying; "It cannot be right that Councils award themselves around 150 more per person per week in a council run home than in an independent home. They have to meet the same standards set by the Care Commission yet are funded differently.

"Of course in many instances, if you self fund, not only do you pay more for the same level of care, but you can be assured that your discharge from hospital will not be delayed and you will be placed instantly in a home of your choice.

"Even five years into this parliament we still have 1932 patients in blocked beds.

Mary concluded with the issue of fuel poverty alluding to the 1999 election manifesto of the Labour Party in Scotland which pledged to eliminate fuel poverty over 2 terms of Parliament - by 2007; "However, when the fuel poverty statement was issued in August 2002 the target had changed to 2016 - a delay of 9 years."