Letter: Elderly women in poverty

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Rentoul is right (report, 23 September). Pensions policy is a key issue for conference debate.

We have to ensure that everyone is able to build a decent, secure second- tier pension that will float them off poverty in old age. That will take time to come through. But, and this is too easily overlooked, we have an immediate problem which we must address now: 700,000 pensioners, most of them women, are living in deep poverty.

Because they are elderly, because they are women, because they are reticent, they have become invisible. Yet they have no private pension, no Serps, no savings, no rights to earmarking or pension-splitting, nothing. They fall, on average, pounds 14 a week below the poverty line. How do they survive? By turning off the heating, by not eating properly, by never going out.

Our proposals to deliver a pension entitlement to our poorest pensioners must be our highest priority. We owe it to them, in every sense.

PATRICIA HOLLIS

(Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

Labour Social Security Spokesperson

House of Lords

London SW1

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