Ever receding retirement?

This blog was contributed by Hannah Pearce, Age UK’s joint Head of Public Affairs. 

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The big headline in today’s autumn statement was the Chancellor’s announcement to increase state pension age. George Osborne said that state pension age would be set following a general principle by which people could expect to spend a third of their adult life in retirement. He declared that state pension age needs to keep up with life expectancy. On current assumptions, this would mean an increase to 68 in the mid 2030’s and 69 by the mid 2040’s. This follows a number of increases to State Pension Age in the last three Pensions Acts, the most recent of which speeded up equalisation so that women’s State Pension Age will increase to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018 and then to 66 for both men and women between December 2018 and October 2020. The current bill going through parliament proposes an increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

We have two broad concerns with this pronouncement. Firstly life expectancy figures on their own do not tell the whole story. Whilst life expectancy at birth (in England) for men is 83 the life expectancy gap – the gap between the highest and lowest life expectancy estimates by local authority is almost 9 years. The picture looks even worse when you examine healthy life expectancy which is only 64. And the male healthy life expectancy gap by local authority is over 15 years with Richmond at one of the scale where it is just over 70 compared to Manchester where it is just 55. Continue reading “Ever receding retirement?”

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”

Budget 2013: did the Chancellor deliver for older people?

Following statements from the Chancellor prior to the budget, it seemed that older people were due to benefit from significant changes to the future funding structures of social care and pensions. However, following the Chancellor’s statement there is little new to celebrate.

The main point of interest for pensioners was confirmation that the implementation of the cap on social care costs (the ‘Dilnot’ reforms) and the introduction of the single-tier state pension will both be brought forward to 2016-17. From April 2016, there will be a cap of £72,000 on the costs of care, and the upper threshold limit for the residential care means test will be increased to £118,000.

440x210_pound-coinsWhilst we welcome the earlier implementation of the care costs cap and the higher upper means test threshold from April 2016, this will do nothing to help the 800,000 older people who need help with everyday tasks but receive no formal state support. Since 2010/11, in real terms £700 million has been cut from local authority spending on social care. Although the Government has provided additional investment for social care over the course of this parliament, it has not been enough to halt the downwards spiral in care funding. As a result, 85 per cent of local authorities now provide care only to people with substantial or critical needs.
Continue reading “Budget 2013: did the Chancellor deliver for older people?”

No news is not always good news

The Chancellor delivered his third Autumn Statement today. He tried to strike a tone of cautious optimism over recent economic data suggesting the end of the recession and rising employment. Underneath this, however, there were more cuts as Government struggles to eliminate the structural deficit as it has prioritised.

Yet again the biggest omission from the Chancellor’s statement was any plan to help resolve the crisis in social care. We welcome the continued protection for the NHS budget but unless funding for social care is urgently addressed then the knock on costs to the NHS will continue to grow. The announcement of a further two per cent cut to council budgets in two years’ time is likely to exacerbate this if it leads to further reductions to frontline care and support services that are often already stripped to the bone.

Allowing the social care system to limp along, leaving too many older people isolated and afraid of what tomorrow might bring, is not only morally questionable but makes no financial sense. Reform of care funding would be a worthy legacy for any Government, it remains a scandal that 18 months after Andrew Dilnot published his report, it remains unresolved. Continue reading “No news is not always good news”

Does the Chancellor realise that care can’t wait?

On Wednesday 5 December, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, will be giving his Autumn Statement to Parliament. After the Budget, it is one of the most important events in the Chancellor’s calendar. He will be explaining the current economic situation facing the country and will detail some of the Government’s plans for the future.

This is the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to show that the Government is serious about tackling the crisis in social care. Back in July, we saw the White Paper, Caring for our future, which set out a range of proposals to radically reform the social care system. These included a minimum eligibility threshold, more rights for carers and reinforced by media reports , a commitment to the principle of capping the cost of care, to name just a few.

AgeUk at the Treasury with George Osborne MasksShould these proposals be implemented, they have the potential to make a huge difference to older people who rely on social care to live with dignity. However, the Government have yet to explain how they plan to fund these proposals, risking the whole process being kicked into the long grass. Continue reading “Does the Chancellor realise that care can’t wait?”

There may be even more trouble ahead – last week’s announcement of Subsidised Loans

Last Thursday, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, jointly announced a new measure to stimulate economic growth. They also, importantly, did not rule out more quantitative easing.

Mr King prescribed a recipe of subsidised credit, estimated to be worth about £80bn –already known as ‘funding for lending‘. Technically, it consists of auctions by the Bank of England of loans totalling a minimum of £5bn a month for 6 months at a minimum rate of the Bank Rate plus 25 basis points (currently 0.75 per cent).

They feel this is required because the volume of loans to non-financial companies has been falling since the onset of the crisis: the chart below shows that less money has been loaned than the month before, almost every month, since February 2009.

Monthly changes

Continue reading “There may be even more trouble ahead – last week’s announcement of Subsidised Loans”

The Budget 2012

At the start of this week I told colleagues at Age UK that year’s Budget was unlikely to have much specifically for older people – either good or bad. But I was wrong! Headlines the next day included phrases such as ‘pensioners robbed’ and ‘anger as pensioners suffer’.

Disingenuously changes to allowances for people aged 65 and over were not described as a tax increases but ‘simplification’. So what is the effect? Well freezing the age allowances and abolishing them for those reaching 65 from April 2013 will result in 4.4 million people losing an average of £83 in real terms in 2013-14, of whom 360,000 will lose £285. 

These changes do not affect the poorest – over half of older people have incomes too low to pay income tax. But nor do they impact on the most wealthy older people who do not receive the higher allowances. Those affected will be older people who have built up private pensions and savings but still have only modest incomes. They will have a particular effect on people reaching 65 soon after April 2013 who may be planning their finances on the basis of a higher tax allowance and have little time to make changes.  Despite all you may hear about those reaching retirement now being the lucky generation with great final salary pensions, the median (typical) income of a newly retired pensioner is in the region of £11,000. 

As George Osborne points out, older people will gain from a £5.30 increase in the basic state pension and Age UK supports changes to the uprating of the basic state pension.  But many older people on modest incomes have other concerns – for example high energy bills, low rates of savings interest and reduced access to services.

Following the waves of protests about these changes to age allowances some commentators have argued that this balances things up a bit as in general pensioners have been protected from cuts, but at Age UK we worry about pitting one generation against another. In many respects there is more inequality within age groups than between them. Each generation faces different challenges and we need systems that are fair within and across age groups. And reductions in support or increase in taxes need to be debated – not announced without full consultation and described as simplification.  

Read Age UK’s full Budget briefing

Find out what the Budget means for you