[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:50 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Pelling Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central 9:50 am, 23rd February 2010

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, because if people are imprisoned in that way, it has a very significant impact on their mental health. The general issue is one of quality of life for the elderly. Perhaps it is the result of poor public transport-we are probably blessed with better public transport in Croydon than people are in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, although I know that Scotland invests a great deal in public transport-but it is an important concern.

The most significant illness affecting pensioners is dementia, yet the research funding for dementia is less than 2 per cent. of research funding for cancer. Obviously, I am not quarrelling with the amount that is spent on research funding for cancer, but with an ever ageing population and with more and more NHS funds being used to care for dementia sufferers, research funding for dementia is an issue worthy of consideration.

The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire and her right hon. and hon. Friends rightly emphasised the importance of the experience of the hardest winter for 30 years. It is estimated that the proportion of pensioners who have found themselves in fuel poverty has gone up from what might be described-rather sadly, perhaps-as the normal 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. this year. It is bad enough that many pensioners have to choose between heating and feeding themselves, while also giving consideration to the fact that they might have to use any spending money they have on care services. It is fair to say that in my local authority-and I am sure that this is true elsewhere- increases in care service prices, if pensioners are not otherwise supported by the public sector, are a matter of great concern.