Jeremy Hunt is happily ensconced at the Nineteenth Hole of his golf course, trying to persuade his wealthy early-retiree friends to return to work – despite the fact that they neither need nor want to do so. Meanwhile his budget has 18 real holes in it, which he could have focused on instead. Indeed, some could even have been holes-in-one!
Hole 1 Ageism of employers: we need measures to inform and persuade employers of the real business benefits of older workers as part of an age-diverse workforce.
Hole 2 Ageism of recruitment sector: we need measures to ensure recruitment agencies give older workers on their books equal treatment.
Hole 3 Equality Act not being enforced – it is time to give the Equality Act some real teeth and ensure that employers and recruiters who refuse to be persuaded and informed face legal consequences if they continue to blatantly ignore the Act.
Hole 4 Lack of Flexible working – arrangements for such things as part-time working, flexible hours, job sharing, etc will enable more 50+ to return to at least some paid employment taking into account their health issues and/or caring responsibilities (e.g., for aged parents).
Hole 5 Insufficient pension resources – people should be encouraged to plug e.g. gaps in NI contributions, yet the government is at this very moment removing their right to do so for years pre 2016.
Hole 6 Need for local, specialist 50+ employment support. Resources should be channelled to local providers, charities, specialist organisation with real expertise and successful track records, rather than to large generic providers of one-size-fits-all employability programmes.
Hole 7 We need to give better support for those older workers from ethnic minorities and women older workers who are disadvantaged in employment.
Hole 8 Age-friendly workplaces – employers should be given information and help in how to make reasonable affordable adjustments to make the workplace more amenable to older and disabled people.
Hole 9 We need to ensure employers undertake age reporting on their workforce so we can assess which are genuinely interested in becoming age inclusive.
Hole 10 Age-friendly cities – local authorities should be encouraged to do more to improve local infrastructure, transport, etc. so that older and disabled people have affordable, convenient ways to be able to travel – to work and earn money, to spend money in local shops and facilities, etc. Re-open closed libraries, community and sports centres, and local medical centres, which are all needed by young and old alike.
Hole 11 Older workers not claiming work-related benefits: those people who are e.g., long-term ill should have their circumstances respected. But there are large numbers who are not claiming work-related benefits who would love to work and need more money. There should be increased, rather than reduced, levels of disability allowance for those unable to work, and more support for those who would love to work but cannot. Also, the government needs to fix the issue of the backdated carers’ National Insurance shortfall, which affects older women in particular.
Hole 12 Inadequate benefit levels: Unlike the welcome increase in state pension rates this year, other benefit rates are painfully low, condemning many older workers to poverty and the consequent issues of debt, depression, anxiety, poor health etc. Holistic support is needed for those suffering from the impact of long-term unemployment, poverty, and consequent depression/anxiety, physical and mental ill-health, debit etc.
Hole 13 Lack of in-work training opportunities for employed 50+ – we need a scheme to inform and persuade employers of the business benefits of offering equal professional development and training opportunities to their older workers, instead of predominantly younger staff. Older workers have a track record of completing courses, getting qualifications, and then staying loyal to the employer who gave them the opportunity, rather than using it to get a better job elsewhere.
Hole 14 Self-employment – many older workers would happily choose self-employment but need targeted help and support (advice and financial support) in order to succeed.
Hole 15 Intergenerational cooperation – employers should be helped and encouraged to capitalize on the advantages of an age-diverse workforce by setting up mutual mentoring schemes where older people can support and advise younger colleagues on a range of issues, and be supported by them in turn in areas which are new to them.
Hole 16 JCP work coaches are overloaded – a temporary 2–3-year scheme to recruit more 50+ specialist work coaches and reduce their individual caseloads to give more meaningful support to their clients – as was done post 2008 in Germany – can make a real impact in reducing levels of 50+ unemployment.
Hole 17 We need better local connections between agencies to help the wellbeing of older workers involving a genuine partnerships between local government, health bodies, social landlords and community groups – as well as DWP.
Hole 18 We need politicians to stop using golf course analogies for those retired – not all are affluent with one in five nor having sufficient resources for their retirement – and all retirees don’t spend their days on the golf course – older people are the major suppliers of volunteering which helps society.
Hole 19 – Anyone for drinkie-poos? it’s happy hour, – great deals on draught ales, beers and lagers, so the drinks are on Jeremy! (As long as you don’t order Scotch, have you seen how much tax they put on it?)