Ken's birthday bonus is not worth a mint

ELDERLY people across North Somerset are living on the poverty line and their 80th birthday present from the Government

ELDERLY people across North Somerset are living on the poverty line and their 80th birthday present from the Government is not even enough to buy them a packet of Polo mints, according to a prominent pensioner.Weston Senior Citizens Forum's chairman Ken Lacey, who lives in Clarence Grove Road, says pensioners are struggling to live on the cash they receive in circumstances which are 'quite appalling' and 'a joke.'Mr Lacey, aged 79, says that when someone reaches 80 they receive a 25p per week bonus from the Department of Work and Pensions, which he does not believe is enough. He said: "I have never been quite sure whether this is to congratulate you or to state your worth to your country."Whatever it is the amount hasn't changed since 1972 and is a bit of a joke for most people."Nowadays 25p won't buy you a first class stamp or a pack of Polos."What it does buy is the utter contempt of pensioners who struggle by on a basic pension which is the lowest in Europe."In 1981 the basic pension was 24 per cent of average earnings. Today it has fallen to 15 per cent."In our country the average pension is a miserable £88 per week, with some as low as £60 per week. It is quite appalling."On average the owner of a band D property has to pay £120 council tax per month. "With gas and electric bills on top, as well as food, it leaves pensioners with very little."Pensioners struggle as they don't get enough money and a lot of them live in poverty."A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Age Addition was introduced in 1971 and the amount of 25p a week has not been changed by successive governments since that time. "We have considered suggestions that the Age Addition be increased. However, because the amount would be paid as state pension, it would be classed as taxable income."The increase could also have an impact on the amount of state support people receive through other benefits."We do recognise that older pensioners on the whole need help more than others and, since 1997, we have implemented a number of new measures to assist them."They can find out more by phoning us on 08456 060265.

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