“Hardworking families”

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Sir Keir Starmer gave his first speech of 2021 today, asking the government to put “families first”. Yesterday, he wrote for the Sunday Telegraph along the same lines. “The importance of family hasn’t been talked about enough during this crisis. In the last decade — and during this pandemic in particular — families have too often been let down or forgotten.”

Hardly, Sir Keir. Those of us who don’t have families — 4.5 million of us over 50 — have been totally ignored, despite the brilliant work of Ageing Well Without Children. For a change, I put fingers to keyboard and wrote to the Labour leader and the relevant members of the shadow cabinet to tell them how I feel. If you feel the same as me, go here and write to relevant MPs and ministers, of all parties, to let them know there are millions of votes to be had for the party which takes on these issues.

Here’s my letter:

Dear Sir Keir,

As I write this, I am watching you deliver your first speech of 2021 on television. You are, of course, absolutely right to support families and the future of children through the Covid pandemic and beyond, but as ever with every Labour initiative, there is no thought for the 4.5 million people over 50 who do not have children.

In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, you wrote: “The importance of family hasn’t been talked about enough during this crisis. In the last decade — and during this pandemic in particular families have too often been let down or forgotten.” This is a ludicrous statement, as family life is at the heart of every party’s policy, particularly the “hard-working ones”. No attention is given to those of us who are in different personal situations; people with no children, people with no children and no partners.

Figures from the advocacy group Ageing Well Without Children (www.awoc.org) shows:

· The number of people over 65 without adult children is set to rise from over 1.2 million at the present time to 2 million by 2030.

· The figures for those ageing without children compares to 850,000 living with dementia at present, not set to rise to 2 million until 2051.

· The number of women who have not become mothers has more than doubled in a generation, from 9% of those born in the 1940s to 19% of women born in the 1960s. It is estimated that 25% of women born in the 70s will not be mothers. Although the Office of National Statistics does not record data on how many men become fathers, it is estimated that around 23 per cent of men over 45 are without children.

· Despite a number of high-profile, celebrity gay and lesbian parents, this is by far the exception — in the LGBT community it is estimated that 90% are ageing without children.

· An estimated that 85% of people with disabilities have no children at present. The number of older people with disabilities who live alone and have no child is projected to rise by nearly 80 per cent by 2032.

· People ageing without children are up to 30% more likely to be carers for elderly parents.

· People ageing without children are 25% more likely to go into residential care, and at an earlier age and lower level of dependency.

· People ageing without children generally have poorer health and have a life expectancy of up to 2 years below those who are parents.

This means that over the next few decades, there will be unprecedented numbers of childless people in old age. It is assumed that these people — including me — will be cared for by children or grandchildren, and there appears to be no Labour policies to help those of us who will be left without help.

We will have to look to the state to provide the care which we have paid towards by our taxes and National Insurance payments, at a time when public services are under huge pressure, made greater by the Covid pandemic. The crisis in formal social care will have serious consequences for those ageing without children than those who have support from adult children and their families. An additional problem is that those of us ageing without children will have nobody to advocate for us when we need to deal with health and social care services, and so will need targeted help.

A large proportion of those of us ageing without children are also living in a single-person household. According to a 2019 ONS report, the number of one-person households is projected to rise to 10.7 million; the same report showed that those living alone had the lowest wellbeing of all household types.

Why do I care so much about these figures? Because they include me. I am a 55-year-old single woman, living alone, with no children. I have also been unemployed for a year. This all means that no political party is interested in me, despite me being a tax and NI payer for many years, and being part of a group of 4.5 million voters who would look kindly on any party who cares for our welfare as much as anyone else in society.

Kirsty Woodard, the powerhouse behind the Ageing Well Without Children group (for which she has not been able to receive public funding, disgracefully), has been trying to engage politicians and government on these issues for years, yet no party seems to be interested. As an ageing woman, I have never felt more invisible in society; I fear I will never work again due to ageist policies in business and lack of training for older workers, and I feel that no party wants to take on the issues of an ageing population.

I am a lifelong Labour voter (I currently live in the Croydon North constituency) who joined the party for the first time so I could vote for you as leader. I admire your family values, both as a husband and father, and as the head of the party. However, I, and many of my friends in a similar situation as mine, groaned when you wheeled out the “hard-working families” card in your speech today. There are millions of votes to be had from people like me, yet no party, Labour included, seems to want them. It’s very cruel. The care I may need in the future will, if the current situation continues, be pretty poor, and I will have nobody to help me in the decisions about my care. Is that fair? I contribute as much to society as anyone else, and feel entirely ignored by lawmakers.

I would urge you and your shadow cabinet to listen to the needs of us ageing without children, with AWWOC as your first point of contact, as we are ignored and angry at the unfairness with which we are treated.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

CLAIR WOODWARD