In see the working age individuals pulling ahead

In this assignment I intend to
visit the problem of pensioner poverty in the UK today. I will describe what
pensioner poverty is and how sociological theories may offer insights into how
it is constructed. I will also describe how C Wright Mills talks about the
sociological imagination and how this could help social workers to understand
pensioner poverty.


Poverty  is the state or condition of having little or
no money, goods or means of support, condition of being poor, indigence’

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Individuals in the population are
said to be in poverty when they lack the basic resources needed to participate
in activities and have the living conditions that are seen as acceptable in the
society to which they belong.

There are two types of poverty
relative poverty and absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is the minimum needed
to sustain life. Relative poverty is lack of money, which people in poverty
need to provide them with enough food, clothes, fuel and social inclusion with
their friends and local communities.There has been a reduction in pensioner
poverty in this country over the last four decades. In the 70s and 80s, 40% of
pensioners in this country lived in poverty, as a society We’ve got that figure
now right down to 14%. As good as this is it is still a problem faced by many
pensioners living amongst us. An estimated 1.9 million pensioners were in
poverty in 2015/16, out of a total 12 million across the UK.


Why was there a difference in
earlier decades? Pensioner poverty tends to increase in times of high economic
growth, according to past research. That’s because the incomes of people in
work can rise a lot faster than prices during these periods, while pensions
tended in the past to track prices more closely. Meaning that pensions do not
rise at the same rate. This can see the working age individuals pulling ahead
leaving pensioners behind and unable to afford basic amenities.


When prices go up especially with
fuel and food. The worry goes up, in the winter months and if they haven’t got
enough money for both they may have to choose just one if any. In the UK today
1 in 6 pensioners in the are living in on or below the poverty line. The rising
prices for fuel and food means during the winter means sometimes pensioners
find themselves having too choose between the two. Rising energy prices, leaky
and energy inefficient housing and low incomes have resulted in a catastrophic
fuel poverty situation that we find ourselves in today. With 1.14 million older
people in England living in fuel poverty. and, most shamefully there were
31,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last winter. Most of these
deaths occurred in people aged 75 and over. As well as the health effects such
as respiratory problems and depression to name a few that living in a cold home
can cause. There are also the social effects to consider such as social
isolation with some people having to make stark choices between heating their
home or buying the food they need.

Pensioners that are living on
low, fixed incomes may only be getting by because of their resourcefulness and
determination of avoiding getting into any debt. Some pensioners can be proud
and unwilling to ask for help. Many people do not realise when they’re entitled
to benefits, but also says some feel too proud or embarrassed to claim, while
others find the process of claiming too intrusive. (Age , Uk)


They may be suffering in silence
and 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 may
be some of the daily struggles they have. Older people are not taking up the
full range of benefits available to them, with a massive amount up to £5.5
billion going unclaimed each year. There are several big barriers which prevent
older people living in poverty from claiming crucial means-tested benefits like
Pension Credit. Sometimes this can be down to a Lack of knowledge and even
knowing what’s available to them. Not knowing enough about pensioner benefits
has been identified as a key factor behind older people not applying for them.Sometimes
pensioners assume that they would not be eligible. When in reality they would
be. The vast majority of older people say they would make a claim if they
believed they were eligible. However, often older people assume this extra
money is only for those who are worse off than they are, or that being a home
owner automatically disqualifies them which is incorrect.


Also there is sometimes a
reluctance to claim benefits Older people may feel that there is a stigma
attached to being a ‘benefit claimant’ a term they may not want attached to
them. With their incomes becoming stretched. Some older people who struggle
daily may be worried if their money was to run out. Worries such as:  Cost of care. This could include what they
may have currently or if they needed it in the future. According to the latest
figures from November there were 1.9 million people claiming pension credit, or
2.2 million if you include their partners, although there has been research
suggesting that about one-third of people entitled to it are not claiming.


Sociology offers many theories as
to why poverty exists in our society I have looked at what insights
funtionalist, Marxist and feminist perspectives could have on the issue of
pensioner poverty.

Functionalism is a perspective
created by Emile Durkheim. He believed society was made up of inter-connected
institutions (for example education, family, government) which depended on each
other to function.

Functionalists see society as
being similar to the human body. In the same way the body relies on the heart
to pump blood round to other vital organs like the lungs and brain.
Functionalists see society as being constructed of different inter-dependent
components like the family and education. (reference)

Functionalists believe that
poverty is a positive function for all of Society although it is so hard to
think of any benefits that could come from being in poverty. Functionalism is
interested in large-scale structural explanations of social life therefore
poverty is understood in terms of the benefits that provides. For example
pensioner poverty means more and more older people are remaining in work until
a later age as they just can’t afford not too. This means there are more people
willing to work for a low wage , helping to ensure the profit and function of
some industries.


Poverty also provides jobs for
doctors and nurses , If people don’t get ill they would be out of work, Charitable
organisations would also cease to exist meaning those working within them would
be out of work also. Poverty also offers reassurance to the rest of society in
some way, Poverty gives us something to measure ourselves against , If we can
see we are doing better than those on the poverty line it drives us to work
harder. If we can see pensioners in poverty it will also help to drive us to
save money to ensure we do not find ourselves in the same predicaments when we
are in old age.


Marxism first introduced by Karl
Marx he argued that poverty benefits The higher classes as there’s always
people willing to do lower paid jobs to keep the economy flourishing. The
existence of poverty and unemployment and there is always a reserve army of
individuals willing to work later into life. Capitalism and the bourgeoisie
therefore benefit for the from the existence of poverty . According to this
view, the major cause of poverty is inequality. Inequality in the form of
uneven distribution of the wealth. A main consequence of capitalism. There is a
considerable 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 allows
inequality. Social inequality means that certain individuals or groups have
more material or resources than others, for example a young workers wage
increasing alongside inflation – Or a bankers receiving a bonus in  reflection of an old persons pension
remaining the same.  This creates a
capitalist society.

I also wanted to also look at at
feminists perspective of poverty . Feminist perspectives would argue that some
pensioner poverty would stem partly from females in the UK living longer so
needing to live of an old age pension for longer. A pension that has been
mentioned previously is increasing at a very slow rate.

‘A woman born in 1951 will have
been 15 when she left school to start work; 24 when the Sex Discrimination and
Equal Pay Act came into force; 32 when the Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value
Amendment was added; 43 when every working woman won the right to take
maternity leave. She will have experienced direct and indirect sexism both at
home and in the workplace – marital rape was legal until 1991 – and had little
personal or state support in caring for dependants. If she was married, the
unpaid labour she contributed in the home will have meant more money in her
husband’s pocket, not hers’. (the independendt)

So it may also become a factor
that female pensioners that have spent their younger lives looking after the
family and the home, and may have lived their life relying financially upon a
husband . One of the issues here could be that they have no private pension to
fall back on. This could become a bigger probl;em if they were then to find
themselves widowed and surving off their pension alone.


 C Wright Mills introduced the idea of the
sociological imagination.

‘Mills defined sociological imagination as “the vivid awareness of the
relationship between experience and the wider society.” C Wright Mills

He encouraged people to think of
all the issues political and personal that may have influenced how an
individual or group has come to find themselves where they are in regards to
problems and issues they may have such as pensioners finding themselves in
poverty. He implied that we look at our own problems as social issues. Mills
recommended that social scientists should work within the field as a whole,
Instaed of just concentrating on their own area of expertise. This idea is
often ignored. He argued that it was important for socologists too transform
personal problems into public and political issues.

As social workers it is important
that we try to understand the society in whuch we work, Why is pensioner
poverty a rising problem in our society it is imperative that we adopt the
sociological imagination in our thinking when we are working with a service
user. There are many sociological theores to help us to understand why
pensiners find themselves in poverty. It is important that we engae with older
people . That we help to make them aware of the money they are entitled
too.  And although functionalists would
argue that pensioner poverty has a place in society and Marxists would argue
that poverty keeps the economy flowing, It is still a huge issue today . For
whatever reason a pensioner finds themselves in poverty we as social workers
need to drive the realisation that more measures need to be put in place to end
such a terrible situation that many older people find themselves in.