In this assignment I intend tovisit the problem of pensioner poverty in the UK today. I will describe whatpensioner poverty is and how sociological theories may offer insights into howit is constructed.
I will also describe how C Wright Mills talks about thesociological imagination and how this could help social workers to understandpensioner poverty. Poverty is the state or condition of having little orno money, goods or means of support, condition of being poor, indigence'(Dictionary.reference.
com/browse/poverty).Individuals in the population aresaid to be in poverty when they lack the basic resources needed to participatein activities and have the living conditions that are seen as acceptable in thesociety to which they belong. There are two types of povertyrelative poverty and absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is the minimum neededto sustain life. Relative poverty is lack of money, which people in povertyneed to provide them with enough food, clothes, fuel and social inclusion withtheir friends and local communities.There has been a reduction in pensionerpoverty in this country over the last four decades.
In the 70s and 80s, 40% ofpensioners in this country lived in poverty, as a society We’ve got that figurenow right down to 14%. As good as this is it is still a problem faced by manypensioners living amongst us. An estimated 1.
9 million pensioners were inpoverty in 2015/16, out of a total 12 million across the UK. Why was there a difference inearlier decades? Pensioner poverty tends to increase in times of high economicgrowth, according to past research. That’s because the incomes of people inwork can rise a lot faster than prices during these periods, while pensionstended in the past to track prices more closely. Meaning that pensions do notrise at the same rate.
This can see the working age individuals pulling aheadleaving pensioners behind and unable to afford basic amenities. When prices go up especially withfuel and food. The worry goes up, in the winter months and if they haven’t gotenough money for both they may have to choose just one if any.
In the UK today1 in 6 pensioners in the are living in on or below the poverty line. The risingprices for fuel and food means during the winter means sometimes pensionersfind themselves having too choose between the two. Rising energy prices, leakyand energy inefficient housing and low incomes have resulted in a catastrophicfuel poverty situation that we find ourselves in today. With 1.14 million olderpeople in England living in fuel poverty. and, most shamefully there were31,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last winter. Most of thesedeaths occurred in people aged 75 and over.
As well as the health effects suchas respiratory problems and depression to name a few that living in a cold homecan cause. There are also the social effects to consider such as socialisolation with some people having to make stark choices between heating theirhome or buying the food they need.Pensioners that are living onlow, fixed incomes may only be getting by because of their resourcefulness anddetermination of avoiding getting into any debt. Some pensioners can be proudand unwilling to ask for help. Many people do not realise when they’re entitledto benefits, but also says some feel too proud or embarrassed to claim, whileothers find the process of claiming too intrusive.
(Age , Uk) They may be suffering in silenceand not expressing how hard life has become for them. Thing such as bills,shopping using coupons or looking for the cheapest deals or going without maybe some of the daily struggles they have. Older people are not taking up thefull range of benefits available to them, with a massive amount up to £5.5billion going unclaimed each year. There are several big barriers which preventolder people living in poverty from claiming crucial means-tested benefits likePension Credit. Sometimes this can be down to a Lack of knowledge and evenknowing what’s available to them.
Not knowing enough about pensioner benefitshas been identified as a key factor behind older people not applying for them.Sometimespensioners assume that they would not be eligible. When in reality they wouldbe. The vast majority of older people say they would make a claim if theybelieved they were eligible. However, often older people assume this extramoney is only for those who are worse off than they are, or that being a homeowner automatically disqualifies them which is incorrect. Also there is sometimes areluctance to claim benefits Older people may feel that there is a stigmaattached to being a ‘benefit claimant’ a term they may not want attached tothem.
With their incomes becoming stretched. Some older people who struggledaily may be worried if their money was to run out. Worries such as: Cost of care.
This could include what theymay have currently or if they needed it in the future. According to the latestfigures from November there were 1.9 million people claiming pension credit, or2.2 million if you include their partners, although there has been researchsuggesting that about one-third of people entitled to it are not claiming.
Sociology offers many theories asto why poverty exists in our society I have looked at what insightsfuntionalist, Marxist and feminist perspectives could have on the issue ofpensioner poverty.Functionalism is a perspectivecreated by Emile Durkheim. He believed society was made up of inter-connectedinstitutions (for example education, family, government) which depended on eachother to function.Functionalists see society asbeing similar to the human body. In the same way the body relies on the heartto pump blood round to other vital organs like the lungs and brain.Functionalists see society as being constructed of different inter-dependentcomponents like the family and education. (reference)Functionalists believe thatpoverty is a positive function for all of Society although it is so hard tothink of any benefits that could come from being in poverty. Functionalism isinterested in large-scale structural explanations of social life thereforepoverty is understood in terms of the benefits that provides.
For examplepensioner poverty means more and more older people are remaining in work untila later age as they just can’t afford not too. This means there are more peoplewilling to work for a low wage , helping to ensure the profit and function ofsome industries. Poverty also provides jobs fordoctors and nurses , If people don’t get ill they would be out of work, Charitableorganisations would also cease to exist meaning those working within them wouldbe out of work also. Poverty also offers reassurance to the rest of society insome way, Poverty gives us something to measure ourselves against , If we cansee we are doing better than those on the poverty line it drives us to workharder. If we can see pensioners in poverty it will also help to drive us tosave money to ensure we do not find ourselves in the same predicaments when weare in old age. Marxism first introduced by KarlMarx he argued that poverty benefits The higher classes as there’s alwayspeople willing to do lower paid jobs to keep the economy flourishing. Theexistence of poverty and unemployment and there is always a reserve army ofindividuals willing to work later into life. Capitalism and the bourgeoisietherefore benefit for the from the existence of poverty .
According to thisview, the major cause of poverty is inequality. Inequality in the form ofuneven distribution of the wealth. A main consequence of capitalism. There is aconsiderable controversy about poverty and its relationship within inequality.
From one point of view, any society with inequality is bound to have poverty.In other words, poverty is more likely to occur in a society which allowsinequality. Social inequality means that certain individuals or groups havemore material or resources than others, for example a young workers wageincreasing alongside inflation – Or a bankers receiving a bonus in reflection of an old persons pensionremaining the same. This creates acapitalist society.I also wanted to also look at atfeminists perspective of poverty . Feminist perspectives would argue that somepensioner poverty would stem partly from females in the UK living longer soneeding to live of an old age pension for longer. A pension that has beenmentioned previously is increasing at a very slow rate.
‘A woman born in 1951 will havebeen 15 when she left school to start work; 24 when the Sex Discrimination andEqual Pay Act came into force; 32 when the Equal Pay for Work of Equal ValueAmendment was added; 43 when every working woman won the right to takematernity leave. She will have experienced direct and indirect sexism both athome and in the workplace – marital rape was legal until 1991 – and had littlepersonal or state support in caring for dependants. If she was married, theunpaid labour she contributed in the home will have meant more money in herhusband’s pocket, not hers’. (the independendt)So it may also become a factorthat female pensioners that have spent their younger lives looking after thefamily and the home, and may have lived their life relying financially upon ahusband . One of the issues here could be that they have no private pension tofall back on. This could become a bigger probl;em if they were then to findthemselves widowed and surving off their pension alone. C Wright Mills introduced the idea of thesociological imagination.’Mills defined sociological imagination as “the vivid awareness of therelationship between experience and the wider society.
” C Wright MillsHe encouraged people to think ofall the issues political and personal that may have influenced how anindividual or group has come to find themselves where they are in regards toproblems and issues they may have such as pensioners finding themselves inpoverty. He implied that we look at our own problems as social issues. Millsrecommended that social scientists should work within the field as a whole,Instaed of just concentrating on their own area of expertise. This idea isoften ignored.
He argued that it was important for socologists too transformpersonal problems into public and political issues.As social workers it is importantthat we try to understand the society in whuch we work, Why is pensionerpoverty a rising problem in our society it is imperative that we adopt thesociological imagination in our thinking when we are working with a serviceuser. There are many sociological theores to help us to understand whypensiners find themselves in poverty. It is important that we engae with olderpeople .
That we help to make them aware of the money they are entitledtoo. And although functionalists wouldargue that pensioner poverty has a place in society and Marxists would arguethat poverty keeps the economy flowing, It is still a huge issue today . Forwhatever reason a pensioner finds themselves in poverty we as social workersneed to drive the realisation that more measures need to be put in place to endsuch a terrible situation that many older people find themselves in.