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Following an open meeting on 10th March to discuss the draft Pensioners' Manifesto prepared by the National Pensioners Convention, the Southwark Pensioners Action Group submitted a number of amendments for consideration before the draft was presented to the Pensioners' Parliament in Blackpool on May 18th-20th. Once approved by the Parliament, the Manifesto will form the basis of our campaigning activities up to next year's general election.

The main points covered by our amendments are summarised below. Many of them were accepted and appear in the revised draft of the Manifesto, to be debated at the Pensioners' Parliament. Others will be presented to the Parliament by the SPAG delegates.

Half pay on retirement

The basic state pension and the state second pension (previously known as SERPS) should be reformed as proposed below, to provide, in total, half pay on retirement for the average earner.

The basic pension

The basic pension should be raised by 2007 to at least a quarter of average earnings (about 125 a week) for a single pensioner and half average earnings (250) for a couple.

Entitlement should continue to be based on the individual's contribution record, but the full pension should be paid to all who paid full contributions when able to do so, and also to women who paid the reduced married woman's contribution for part of their working lives.

The second pension

The earnings-related state second pension should be raised from 20 to 30 per cent of the earnings taken into account.

The National Insurance Fund

A National Insurance Commission, including representatives of contributors and pensioners, should be set up to protect the Fund, from which pensions and other insurance benefits are paid.

The annual Treasury contribution to the Fund, abolished by the Thatcher government, should be restored, and the Fund should be compensated for the cuts made in employers' contributions in recent years.

Tax relief for private pension schemes should be abolished and an equivalent amount (14 billion) should be paid into the Fund to finance increases in state pensions.

Disability benefits

Disabled pensioners should have the same entitlement to Disability Living Allowance as younger disabled people (at present, they get Attendance Allowance instead,which excludes both the allowance paid for mobility needs and the lowest of the three benefit rates for attendance needs).

Care homes

Where long-term residential or nursing home care is needed, it should be provided on a non-profit basis.

If a home is to be closed, residents should be entitled to adequate notice and the offer of alternative accommodation of equal quality at equivalent or lower cost to themselves.

Day centres

The section of the Manifesto referring to day centres should be strengthened by the addition of the following:

"In the past, local authorities provided day centres where older people, who would otherwise have been confined to their homes, could socialise and make new friends. Transport was provided for those with mobility problems. Now access to such centres is generally limited to those assessed as in serious risk to their health or safety. As a result, increasing numbers of older people are likely to become isolated, lonely and depressed."

We hope that the revised draft Manifesto presented to the Pensioners Parliament will incorporate most, if not all, of these amendments.