Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Wish Pensioners a Happy Christmas With This Small Generous Gesture

The UK State Pension is only £119.30 per week. Certainly not enough to live on, even if you own your own home. Pensioners have to pay Council Tax, the full range of household expenses including maintenance, and then they have to pay in the vast majority of cases for any help or care that they get. They have to pay for NHS dental treatment, which used to be free and was promised to them when they paid all their National Insurance contributions over a lifetime.
All the concessions we used to extend to pensioners are being cut back, even the free bus pass, and the age for becoming eligible to claim the pension is rising steeply all the time.

Image result for UK 2nd class stamp

No, I haven't got a magic pot of money that could solve all these problems overnight, though I do think that "Sir" Philip Green and his likes should pay more tax, and should be forced to cough up for the company pensions of the thousands of BHS employees he cheated and swindled abominably. And I do think that our government should be prioritizing our OWN citizens for spending money, those who have worked here and paid tax all their lives. That is simply fair.
I would like to suggest a small, seasonal gesture. Give all pensioners a couple of books of free Christmas stamps, that they can use to send Christmas cards. Even a second-class stamp is now 55p and a first-class is 64p. If you want to put a letter and a few photographs in it, it will probably be classified as a "large" letter, and charged 75p. That is a figure to cause dismay. The better part of a pound to send Christmas greetings. Less than two stamps per £ sterling. To someone living on a pension, 55p is what they would budget for a meal. It will still buy you a couple of potatoes, a couple of eggs and a few baked beans. And they are expected to pay that for each stamp.

 Consider the total cost of Christmas cards and stamps. Assuming you buy cards in an economy box so that they work out at only 20p per card, (or bought them when reduced last January and saved them, as really frugally-minded people do), add that to the cost of the stamp and the minimum price of sending one small card with no enclosures is still 75p.
So sending a card to ten friends costs £7.50. And sending a card to forty friends and relatives, which most people would like to do, costs £30. When you are living on £119.30 per week that is a problem.
Now I can hear you say "But nowadays people can send Email greetings". That's not the same. An Email greeting is not fun to get through the front door, and fun to open. You don't have the fun or guessing who it is from the handwriting and the postmark. Real cards can be stood on the mantlepiece and make colourful decorations throughout the Christmas season. They can be strung up on ribbons in the hall or in the dining-room. They are personal in a way that the internet is not. And anyway, a lot of older people are not internet-savvy. They don't all have computers, or internet, don't all have Email and certainly would not know how to find, fill in and send an E-greeting card. They would have real difficulty opening one and even more sending one. I hope internet never wholly replaces real cards.
I think it would be nice if the government sent every pensioner 40 free stamps, timed one month before Christmas, a little sign of seasonal cheer from all of us. Each stamp would make two people happy, the sender and the recipient. And it would cost a tiny fraction of the amount we spend on mistaken generosity for fraudsters who are just not legally entitled to claim it.


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