The DWP sees itself as the lead Government department on older people. With a quirky newsrelease (29 May), it sought to link its work on pensions with the Diamond Jubilee, and issued a story entitled ‘Pensioners Change the Face of Britain over the Queen’s Reign’. So no lack of bureaucratic artiface there, despite Steve Webb’s customary whimsical supportive commentary.
A killer fact is that there are around 13,120 centenarians today compared with 300 in 1952. The Queen has sent around 110,000 telegrams and messages to centenarians during her reign. A case of royal writers’ cramp – a case for a quick appeal to fund a new fountain pen and plentiful supply of ink for the years ahead? We are living a decade longer than our peers in 1952, but only in the last six years or so have we begun to remodel our state pension scheme to reflect our changed society, and only then at a glacial speed.
Beveridge left us a legacy of a flat-rate state pension, designed with the limited ambition of protecting older people from poverty, and based on a model where men worked and paid contributions, with their wives (who worked at home unpaid, and to whom they remained loyally married all their lives) would share if they were widowed. With a few tweaks, that model remained right into this century. It is to the credit of the last and present Government that we have seen that model change – if modestly. Continue reading “60 Years of Birthday Greetings”