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National Pensioners Convention (NPC)

Update from Ivan Baxter 

The National Pensioners Convention is a UK wide campaign and lobbying group which is run by pensioners for pensioners. The NPC’s main objective is to promote the welfare and interests of all pensioners, as a way of securing dignity, respect and security in retirement. The NPC organises rallies and lobbies of MPs, leads delegations to parliament and makes submissions to government on policies affecting older people. The NPC stages an annual three-day conference where up to 1,000 representatives of older people’s groups from all over the UK meet to discuss issues of concern and share ideas for the betterment of older people as a whole.

Some significant improvements in the wellbeing of older people following campaigning and lobbying by the NPC in the past include:-

 1. The restoration of the earnings link for the uprating of State Pensions. 

 2. The introduction of free travel passes for pensioners.

 3. The introduction of the Winter Fuel Grant. 4. A change in the rules for the State Pension so that pensioners are not unfairly disadvantaged when they are admitted to hospital.

 5. A successful campaign to reduce the VAT on fuel to 5%.

The General Secretary is Jan Shortt who is supported by a small number of full-time workers from an HQ office in London. But the real strength of the organisation comes from the work of many affiliated groups who are active in their local areas and regions promoting the NPC’s campaigns.

In Northern Ireland the work of the NPC is taken forward by a separate NPC Branch (NPCNI) which is to a considerable extent autonomous, in that, because of the devolved nature of aspects of government certain local issues are best dealt with locally.

   The membership of the NPCNI is made up of representative groups of local pensioners 

including the N.I.Branch of the Civil Service Pensioners Alliance.

 Your representatives on the NPCNI governing body are Ivan Baxter and Tony McMullan.

For about 10 years up to the end of 2019 most of the lobbying on behalf of older people in Northern Ireland was undertaken by the Age Sector Platform (ASP). ASP was supported by, amongst many other pensioner groups, the N.I.Branch of CSPA and the NPCNI. 

 Apart from campaigning and lobbying ASP also ran the very popular and successful Pensioners Parliaments. 

Unfortunately ASP had to cease operations from 1st Jan 2020

 because of financial difficulties which left a very big gap in the political lobbying arrangements for Older People in Northern Ireland.  As an interim measure Age NI organised a Pensioners Parliament on a one-off basis in Parliament Buildings on Friday 17 September and will follow up it's findings through the Executive's All Party Group for Older People.   

However, unlike ASP, Age NI, whilst it does very good work on behalf of local older people, is not a representative organisation.

The NPCNI is an entirely representative organisation 

and now seeks to don the mantle of the former ASP. However this presents certain difficulties not the least of which is that whilst ASP was reasonably generously staffed by full-time professionals, NPCNI is entirely made up of volunteers who could not possibly mirror the entire body of work undertaken by ASP. As a start NPCNI have taken two important decisions. The first is to seek funding for the employment of full-time staff. This matter is being addressed by a separate sub-group. The second decision was to agree a set of priorities based on local knowledge and past experience. These are set out below. 

NPCNI Priorities

1. The introduction to NI of the Warm Home Discount Scheme which operates in GB but not NI and provides a discount of some £140pa on fuel bills to needy pensioners (and some others).

2.A local law to address Age Discrimination in the provision of Goods and Financial Services. Laws already exist in both GB and the RoI which outlaws such practices but no equivalent law has yet been promulgated in NI.

3. The retention of the Smartpass. This very important concession for older people frequently comes under attack and NPCNI believe it prudent to keep its provision under review.

4. Care in the Community. This is also a National NPC priority but the situation in NI is radically different from GB because of the integration of Health and Care Services in NI.

5. Retention of the Triple Lock for the uprating of the State Pension. Although this is usually seen as a Westminster matter Social Security is a devolved issue. In most cases the NI Administration follows parity but it is important to ensure that NI pensioners are fairly treated.

6. Retention of the Annual Fuel Grant. As 5 above, normally a Westminster issue but needs to be kept under review.

As the situation develops this note will be updated from time to time.

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