This week we have a blog from Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director.
It’s not every day that three Government Ministers come to our offices but that’s what happened earlier this week.
On Tuesday we were delighted to be able to offer around sixty older people the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith and the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb.
The event coincided with the publication of the Government’s Taxation of Pensions Bill, which will put into law the huge shake up of the pension system announced by the Chancellor in the Budget earlier this year.
A round table of ‘older’ Age UK staff also had the opportunity to discuss the pension reforms and other big issues for them with the Prime Minister before he joined the larger group of older people, Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Webb, where he briefly outlined the pension changes to come.
Among other things, the Prime Minister said “I think if you’ve worked hard and saved during your life you deserve responsibility in retirement about how you spend the money that you’ve worked so hard for and saved so hard for.”
He explained that the reforms would allow people to tap into their savings and their pension as they grow older, providing additional flexibility and additional responsibility.
But of course, while Age UK supports the principle of increasing choice, in the end you can only spend your pension savings once and first and foremost a pension is there to provide a secure income throughout retirement – which we all hope will last a long time.
In addition, it’s important to remember that the average private pension pot is worth less than £30,000 so the idea of ‘choice’ may not always be very meaningful; and that many older people have no private pension at all, particularly many women.
So while we support any moves that will improve pensions for current and future generations, ensuring that every older person has enough money to enjoy a secure and comfortable retirement will be as big an issue after the Government’s reforms come into force next year as it is today. And that is why we are pressing all the political parties to commit to ambitious but realistic plans to reduce pensioner poverty at the next Election. And more immediately, it is why this is our inaugural End Pensioner Poverty Week campaign(13 – 19 October).
The Prime Minister was politely but robustly challenged by the older people at our event about the vital need to do more for the 1.6 million pensioners currently living in poverty, for whom this week’s announcement means very little. And we will continue to keep the pressure up on this Government and on the next Government too, whatever the outcome of the 2015 General Election turns out to be!