George Gray

George Gray

George Gray

A FIFE man who helped build the Forth Road Bridge is struggling to make ends meet in South Africa because of a frozen pension.

George Gray (77), who suffers from chronic lung disease, is one of the few civil engineers still alive who worked on the construction of the bridge, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday.

He moved to South Africa in 1971 with his wife and family because work for his profession had dried up at the time and he didn’t want to live off unemployment benefit.

But after paying National Insurance for all 48 years of his working life, George was hit with the same blow which affects around 40,000 other people in Scotland – a frozen pension.

The situation means that the pension George received at state retirement age remains at that amount for the duration of his retirement, with no annual increase ever, leaving it at around two-thirds of the basic state pension today.

He had no idea about frozen pensions until it came to applying and said:

“It makes me upset and angry, I was even told that getting our state pension was not a right but merely a benefit from the UK Government that could be amended at any time – but I’ve paid for it all of my working life!”

Married to wife Christine and with three children, George is now settled in South Africa but is seriously considering moving back to Scotland, even though they don’t want to be separated from their family, because of the struggle to meet costs.

George is currently forced to live on £77 per week, 33 per cent lower than the basic state pension, while Christine is on just £44 per week.

He also suffers from chronic lung disease and atrial fibrillation, with problems walking even short distances, and has to contend with medical insurance costs at £4500 a month.

Frozen pensions affect people if they move to certain countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Their state pension is permanently frozen at the date they retire or, if they are already a pensioner, the date they move there.

However, people who move within areas such as the EU or USA see their pension increase in line with inflation.

The International Consortium of British Pensioners has been campaigning for over thirty years to unfreeze pensions.

Chairman David Morris said:

“An estimated 40,000 Scottish pensioners who, due to the Westminster government’s longstanding frozen pension policy, currently face a declining income every year. Frozen pensions are causing Scottish pensioners poverty, loneliness and separating families. This is an unjust policy that hits the most vulnerable hardest and must be addressed. We’re asking the government to reverse this unjust policy and ensure that all British pensioners – no matter where they live – receive the state pension they have paid for and deserve”.

Photo and story courtesy of the Dunfermline Press-September 2015