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.

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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.

Continue reading “Guest blog – Universal Credit: a missed opportunity to help older workers”

Spending Review 2013

Older people featured rather significantly in the public spending review to 2015/16. The Chancellor talked quite forcefully about the need to address the problems in social care, and in his consideration of welfare spending, he firmly identified state pensions as remaining outside his proposed new ‘cap’.

440x210_george-osborneThe landscape for the next Government is coming into view, but what does it mean for older people beyond the rhetoric? By 2016, of course, we should be implementing the legislation currently being debated in Parliament and have in place a new single tier state pension and a new social care regime – funded in part by the ideas proposed by Andrew Dilnot. The spending plans suggest that more money will be diverted from NHS budgets into programmes jointly commissioned with social care.   If this means more integrated care and a more ‘whole person’ approach, it will be welcome. But before we get there, local government will have taken another severe cut in its budget, and there is speculation that social care support may be prioritised only for those with critical needs. This means we will remain far away from the ambition to provide the appropriate care which promotes independence and prevents people from becoming substantially or critically in need of care. Continue reading “Spending Review 2013”

Making the Work Programme work for older jobseekers

It has been widely reported that that the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, was failing to help the unemployed back into work and was accused by the Labour Party of being ‘worse than doing nothing’. While we don’t agree with this view, it’s clear the Programme has had some teething problems, particularly for the over 55s involved.

To quickly re-cap, the Work Programme is a major policy costing between £3 and £5 billion over five years, aimed primarily at the long-term unemployed. It uses private companies (‘contractors’) to help people return to work. And to clarify a common misunderstanding, it is not the same as the different but much talked about scheme where jobseekers do unpaid work experience at a business or other organisation!

NOT WORKING FOR OLDER JOBSEEKERS

Age UK has now had a detailed look at the results by age group to find out how successful it was for older jobseekers and  published a briefing.

While the Work Programme came in below expectations for everyone, it is even worse for the over 55s (see chart below. This shows the proportion of people sent on to the Work Programme who entered and remained in a job for at least three months).

The over-55s suffer a drop in successful job outcomes of nearly 30 per cent compared to the average for the under-55s (interestingly, the 50-54 age group have the same outcomes as 45-49s). The age profile of the job success rate is shown below.

This is a huge shortfall and represents a huge problem because the Work Programme appears to be failing to tackle the barriers faced by older jobseekers – it is simply not offering sufficient support.

job-outcome-chart

OVER 55s STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK

For anyone who loses their job once over the age of 50, it can be very difficult to move back into work. So it would be expected that the Work Programme would be less successful for older jobseekers, right? Well yes, and no.

Because the Work Programme is a labour market tool designed to improve job outcomes, it’s possible to change how it operates. Doing so could correct the natural imbalances found within the labour market which almost always harm the prospects of disadvantaged groups, including older jobseekers.

Our briefingrecommends several ways of changing the Work Programme without hampering contractors’ freedom to operate as they choose.
This could be by paying contractors more to place over 55s into jobs or by moving people to the Work Programme after six months unemployment rather than 12 – giving the right support earlier can help, although ‘right’ is the key word here. Measures such as these could make all the difference.

But it seems clear that if nothing changes, older jobseekers will continue to find themselves cut out of the workforce, often permanently, while being expected to wait longer before being able to draw their state pension.

Read  the full Age UK briefing ‘The Work Programme and older jobseekers’

Find out more about Work and Learning on the Age UK website

Let’s Talk Money

Welfare reform and the benefits system have been high on the news agenda recently, but an often overlooked issue is the persistent problem of pensioner poverty. With 1.7m pensioners (14%) currently living in poverty, and £5.5bn pounds of benefits left unclaimed by pensioners, Age UK has re-launched its Let’s Talk Money campaign.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 13.42.31A significant amount of research highlights that there are many reasons why older people aren’t claiming the benefits that they are entitled to – from a perception that the application process is too complicated, to the belief that they don’t qualify.

With so many people slipping through the net, Age UK aims to challenge the myths around eligibility, and encourage older people to claim the benefits that they are entitled to so that they can make the most of later life.

The campaign continues to focus on encouraging older people to claim the benefits they are entitled to, such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance.

People on low incomes can use the extra money that benefits provide to pay for utility bills, broken appliances or some much needed help around the house – removing financial stress that is a burden for so many. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Money”

UK life reimagined

A demographic revolution is under way, with more of us living longer than ever before. Fifty years ago there were nearly 20 million people in the world age 80 or over; now that figure stands at about 105 million, and it’s rising fast. Many – though not enough – of our older population are in good health and will retire with a decent income and a strong social network, and many have much to offer society.

The timing of the debate around the aging population in the UK is then 440px_older_carers_handsperhaps unfortunate, held as it is against a back­drop of a beleaguered economy. Since the Coalition Government came to power we have seen cuts to government services and working-age benefits and a further £10 billion reduction in welfare to come. Against this context there is a perception that older people have fared better than most other groups but media commentary suggesting that today’s older people belong to “the lucky generation” obscure the enormous variations that exist. This is particularly stark in terms of poverty and wealth – fewer than half of all retirees have an income big enough to pay income tax.  Older people’s median income lev­els remain lower than those of the population as a whole. Continue reading “UK life reimagined”

Disability benefits do benefit people in poorer neighbourhoods’

We carried out a piece of research which studied whether the proportion of older residents in lower super output areas (LSOA) in England receiving disability living allowance and attendance allowance was statistically related to the degree of income poverty among older people in the area. (LSOAs are geographical areas with a mean population of 1,500 people; there are 32,482 LSOAs in England). The paper was peer-reviewed and was just published in the Journal of Maps (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17445647.2012.695441).

We applied a number of spatial econometric techniques, given the geographical nature of the data. The data for beneficiaries come from the Department for Work and Pensions. Income poverty among older people is one of the indicators compiled by the Social Disadvantage Research Centre at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Oxford. The estimates of total population by age are from the Office for National Statistics.

We found a greater concentration of DLA and AA recipients over state pension age living in deprived areas than in more affluent areas: nearly 30 per cent older beneficiaries live in the 20 per cent poorest of areas and approaching two thirds live in the poorest half of areas.

Even after accounting for significant spatial effects, we still found a strong, positive relationship between proportion of beneficiaries and proportion of older people in poverty .

These allowances are therefore benefiting more deprived communities.

The study does not allow us to affirm that the allowances are directly benefiting older people in lower income. However we can conclude that these benefits, although not means-tested, would be partially addressing the geographical inequalities in income of older people across England.

Reducing or eliminating these benefits would hit the harder the poorer the neighbourhood.

Last year, Age UK helped 500,000 people put £120million back in their pockets through free benefits information and advice. This year, we will continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from claiming, in particular older people not realising that they are eligible for some additional income. For more information, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/moremoney

Find out more about our policy work on money-related issues