The Age Concern and Help the Aged pre-election manifesto is challenging all political parties to commit to scrapping forced retirement legislation. The call comes as new research by the Charity shows the use of mandatory retirement ages soared during the recession‚ with over 100‚000 people forced to retire on or after turning 65. Meanwhile the countdown to forced retirement is now on for a quarter of a million more workers in their 60s 1.

The issue tops the bill of key manifesto challenges launched today by Age Concern and Help the Aged‚ which include calls for radical reform of care in old age and the re-linking of the basic state pension to earnings by 2012. The paper‚ Our Power is Our Number‚ covers six critical issues for later life: respect; support; money; health; participation and ageing around the world.

The new survey reveals for the first time the full scale of the impact forced retirement has had on the older workforce since the Default Retirement Age (DRA) was introduced in 2006. The findings show that the number of people aged 65-plus forced to retire increased massively last year to more than 100‚000. The figure is four times higher than the number the charity feared would be hit when the law was introduced.

The figures suggest that employers have used forced retirement as a cheap and easy alternative to redundancy during the recession. Forced retirement is part of the everyday lives of people in their 60s‚ with one in four people aged 60 to 70 (24%) knowing a friend or colleague who has been made to retire at or after 65.

Many more people in their 60s face the prospect of forced retirement in the near future. Half a million 60-plus older workers (530‚000) work for employers who use the Default Retirement Age and a quarter of a million workers aged 60 to 64 (250‚000) says they it is likely or certain that they will be forced to retire.

Michelle Mitchell‚ Age Concern and Help the Aged Charity Director‚ said:

“Our survey clearly shows the use of forced retirement has spiralled out of control‚ offering some employers a low-cost shortcut to shed jobs during the recession.

“The Default Retirement Age has stamped an expiry date on hundreds of thousands of older workers. It’s the most disturbing example of age discrimination which still tarnishes later life for so many people.

“Nine in ten people in their 60s have told us they oppose forced retirement. We now want all political parties to commit to tackle disrespect in later life‚ ranging from forced retirement and age limits on insurance‚ to thoughtless prejudice we find in the NHS‚ local government and the private sector.”

The call on all political parties to scrap the DRA is at the centre of Age Concern and Help the Aged’s manifesto for the general election‚ Our Power is Our Number. The Charity is challenging all political parties to commit to:

Equal respect

  • end forced retirement by scrapping the Default Retirement Age;
  • stop unwarranted age limits on insurance;
  • outlaw age discrimination in the NHS and social care by 2012;

Enough money

  • re-link the basic state pension to earnings by 2012 and increase pensions gradually;
  • introduce mandatory social tariffs to lift lower-income households out of fuel poverty;
  • introduce an automatic system to pay older people their entitlements;

Support to be independent

  • radical reform of the care and support system;
  • include social care in safeguards for health-related spending;
  • maintain Attendance Allowance as part of any reform of care and support;

Feeling well

  • end the scandal of malnutrition in hospital;
  • train and incentivise GPs to diagnose depression in later life;
  • adequate funding for community health services to prevent and treat common health conditions;

Taking part locally

  • build all new homes to Lifetime Home standards;
  • work with local authorities to create age-friendly services and public spaces;
  • extend free travel concessions to people who can’t use public transport;

Think globally

  • support a new United National Convention on the Rights of Older Persons;
  • offer developing countries help to introduce basic pension systems;
  • champion ageing in all global development initiatives and humanitarian crises.

Launching the Charity’s 2010 election manifesto‚ Michelle Mitchell said:

“Despite the fact that people aged 65-plus now outnumber those under 16‚ politicians still pay too little attention to needs and aspirations in later life. People are still facing hidden ageist barriers and overt discrimination as workers‚ consumers and patients. Our system of care in old age is crumbling and the lives of millions are blighted by poverty.

“Our manifesto lays out compelling and affordable solutions to the challenges presented by an ageing UK. Millions of older voters are waiting to hear from the political parties how they will address these issues‚ and are expecting a clear response.

“Our election manifesto is not just a manifesto for people who are already retired. By stripping away age-based barriers and creating new opportunities in later life politicians can unlock people’s potential contributions to the economy and local communities. And it is younger generations who will benefit most from our long-term initiatives to transform attitudes‚ build decent pensions and reform care in old age.”