BEFORE entering Parliament I served as a director of Age Concern England, highlighting the problems facing older people and pressing for change.
As an MP I am privileged to be able to continue this work, joining forces with local and national charities and groups to help older people living in my constituency.
As ever, the costs facing older people trying to adequately heat their homes remain a real concern. The Government's continued increases to the state pension, increased cold weather payments and securing of £50 off the average heating bill are helping. But more can be done to promote the full range of support now available to people of all ages struggling with the cost of heating.
This week Cornwall Rural Community Council is doing its bit to boost this promotion, by advertising 'Big Energy Saving Week'. This campaign, running from January 27 to 31 aims to encourage people to take the steps available to them to reduce their heating bills. Cornwall Rural Community Council is out and about advising local residents of how they can switch supplier for cheaper tariffs, make the most of the heating they do use, and apply for benefits and funding to better insulate and heat their home.
To coincide with Big Energy Saving Week Camborne-based social enterprise Community Energy Plus has launched a new insulation scheme offering free or heavily subsidised grants to help residents insulate the external walls of their home. Excitingly this insulation can be fitted to properties with solid Cornish walls which often struggle to retain heat, resulting in energy bill savings of up to £490 a year. Further information on the new scheme can be obtained by calling 0800 9541956.
My booklet summarising how to save money on heating your home can be downloaded from www.sarahnewton.org.uk or obtained in hard copy by calling 01872 274760.
Sadly of course heating costs aren't the only issue facing our most vulnerable pensioners. I was shocked to learn this week of new House of Commons' library figures that indicate that more than 370,000 old people suffer from abuse or neglect every year. As part of my work on the Care Bill Committee I am working with colleagues on strengthening parts of the Bill that will help tackle this unacceptable situation. The Bill will require local authorities to more fully investigate reported abuse of older people, with these investigations being overseen by local Safeguarding Adults Boards.
A growing form of neglect is malnutrition. A recent nutrition screening survey carried out for the NHS has shown that malnutrition rates are growing in the UK, driven largely by increasing numbers of older people failing to consume and retain the nutrients they need. In response the Government has instigated a pilot Malnutrition Prevention Project, in which volunteers and health professionals encourage older people to be aware of malnutrition, and how to avoid it.
This pilot needs to be urgently rolled out.