Today Age UK launches its General Election campaign – Dignity in Older Age (www.ageuk.org.uk/generalelection) – which aims to tackle some of the key issues that millions of older people continue to face. Things like difficulties accessing the care and support they so desperately need, living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet, and facing a later life of loneliness.
Throughout the campaign we’ll be covering some of the issues in depth, beginning with Caroline Abrahams on why having a decent income in later life is so important.
What’s the State Pension worth on average? Not surprisingly, most non-retired people don’t know, and the result is that when the ‘triple lock’ is discussed some rather important contextual information like this is usually absent.
Continue reading “The ‘triple lock’ and intergenerational fairness”
In a surprise announcement at the start of 2014 David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that maintaining the ‘triple lock’ for the basic state pension will be a key part of the Conservative’s next election manifesto. This would mean that, at least until 2020, the basic state pension would be increased annually by the rise in prices, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is higher. In response the Labour leader Ed Miliband has also said he is committed to the triple lock.
Reaction has been variable. Some newspapers immediately suggested this would affect other benefits such as the winter fuel payment – the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘Turmoil over OAP benefits’. The Independent welcomed the announcement but said it does not go far enough pointing out that the basic pension is still only £110 a week.
Alternatively, others have focussed on what this means for younger people with the Intergenerational Foundation stating the move is unaffordable and ‘betrays’ the younger generation. Continue reading “Why we need the triple lock”
This blog was contributed by Hannah Pearce, Age UK’s joint Head of Public Affairs.
Every few years the government announces its intention to fundamentally reform the pension system once and for all to ensure it is fair and sustainable for current and future generations. Each of these attempts is made with good intentions and with the hope that the changes will last. However a few years down the line the next government decides it’s time to try again. I’m already working on my fourth pension bill since beginning work for Age UK.
Successive governments are compelled to grapple with the pensions system to catch up with societal changes such as increases in life expectancy, changes in working patterns and to counter structural unfairness. For example several of the state pension reforms in the 2007 Pensions Act sought to ensure that the pension system better reflected the lives of women who often have some time out of employment caring for children, older family members, or working part time.
The compelling reasons for reform under the current proposals were to create a system which is intended to be fairer, simpler and more sustainable. Under the single tier system individuals will receive a state pension based on their own contribution record of up to £146 in today’s money if they have a full record of 35 years contributions. Continue reading “A fair state pension for all?”
Last week saw the publication of the long awaited White Paper on State Pension reform. This sets out plans for a single-tier State Pension of around £144 a week for people reaching State Pension age in the future (probably from April 2017 onwards). The reforms aim to create a simpler system, reducing the need for means-testing and making planning for retirement easier. They are also intended to produce a fairer system with a better State Pension for those who have had years of low earnings and caring responsibilities.
Age UK supports these aims and we have welcomed the reforms as an important step forward for future pensioners. However we are aware that there are criticisms. In particular many older people with State Pensions of less than £144 are angry that they will not benefit. Continue reading “A single-tier State Pension”
It seems incredible that, in the name of cost saving and to prevent a few well off pensioners from receiving some pretty modest benefits, ministers can be entertaining the idea of extending means-testing.
Making people apply for benefits they are entitled to is notoriously inefficient. Pension Credit is not claimed by about 30 per cent of those eligible and Council Tax Benefit by about 40 per cent. When Gordon Brown refused to increase the state pension above the rate of inflation (with a freakish inflation figure in 1999 leading to a 75p increase), he argued that a means-tested Pension Credit was the efficient answer.
However, even he exercised a balance, by making the Winter Fuel Payments universal and restricting the free TV licence to the oldest – who are demonstrably the poorest part of our none-too-wealthy older population, and of course a means-tested claim costs ten times as much to process as an automatic one.
Bizarrely this proposal is surfacing as the ONS publish figures on the poverty risk facing older people ion the UK and the EU. It turns out, according to their figures, that older people in the UK are faring worse than their counterparts in most of the rest of Europe.
There are more than enough poor pensioners struggling with energy bills and food price inflation to maintain some parts of our benefit system which actually get help to them.
Some older celebrities were proud to proclaim last winter that they were donating their Winter Fuel Payment to charity – that is fine and that is their right. It is hard to imagine many of the seriously rich pensioners on the buses with their passes. Continue reading “Means testing could make things worse for those that need help most”
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”