Guest blog – Universal Credit: a missed opportunity to help older workers

This blog was contributed by Giselle Cory, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation.


We know that many people want to work into older age – yet many do not. So what stops them? For some, caring for family or friends can make paid work near impossible.

For others, their own poor health can be a barrier. And for families on low incomes, it may be that work simply doesn’t pay enough to warrant continuing. This can lead to trouble for families who don’t have the savings they need to maintain decent living standards into retirement.

Universal Credit (UC) the government’s flagship welfare reform, could address some of these barriers. For example, under UC low income households will receive an income boost designed to make work pay.

This system could be powerful in ensuring older people have the incentives they need to remain in work. Yet a new report from the Resolution Foundation shows that while UC offers some benefits to older workers, it also misses an opportunity to raise older people’s incentives to stay in a job, or return to work. Without these incentives, low paid work simply does not add up.

Alternatives do exist 

There are alternatives. Some minor changes would mean the system boosts work incentives without punishing those who cannot work. (For example, the income disregards – the amount of income that is invisible to the UC means-test – could be higher for older people.)

Yet so far we have seen no indication that government will improve the system before implementation.

It’s not all bad. In fact, there are many beneficial aspects to UC. The system is simpler, more flexible and encourages pension savings. However, as it is the new system fails to respond to the particular needs of older people and this is a shortcoming that cannot be ignored.

1 in 3 people of working age in the UK is already over 50. But we fare badly when it comes to supporting older people to find or stay in work.

In fact, the UK would add another 1.5 million workers if it matched the older employment rates of other advanced economies by supporting those older people who want to work to do so.

Without addressing the particular position of older workers, UC is yesterday’s policy, failing to meet today’s challenges or anticipate tomorrow’s.

Read Age UK’s  factsheet about Universal Credit

Find out more about Age UK’s work on money matters

Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

2 thoughts on “Guest blog – Universal Credit: a missed opportunity to help older workers”

  1. It’s. a sad reflection on our system when some elderly have such a poor deal from the system that they paid into all their lives. We see over 400 elderly people passing away due to cold related issues each winter and we still have the lowest pensions within the EEC. WHY,,! When we see MPs earning vast amounts plus expenses, fighting wars that have little relevance to us, tax not collected, bankers and failed executives being rewarded for failure .This we know about what is going on that we don’t know about. Everyone should receive a pension of £250 per week Thus removing the need for costly means tests and credits which cost a fortune to adminster

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