Politicians have made much of the fact that UK pensioners are better off than ever before and have endeavoured to incite a generation war between the young and the elderly.
More than a million pensioner households across the UK are living in poverty because of the government’s failure to act on unpaid pension credit, according to the older people’s charity Independent Age.
"...due to government inaction, are missing out on a staggering £10m every day that should be in their pockets,” said George McNamara, the charity’s director of policy and influencing.
Almost 2 million people aged 65 and over are living in poverty in the UK. Pension credit is the income-related benefit specifically designed to lift them out of poverty. But it is estimated that four in 10 pensioner households who are entitled to the help do not receive it. Pensioners entitled to the benefit are missing out on an average of £49 a week, just under the average amount that the poorest fifth of pensioner couples spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks in a week. It can, said McNamara, make the difference between being isolated at home or being able to take part in social activities.
Since the 2017 general election, the government has “benefited” from £7bn in unclaimed pension credit, the charity said. This figure will increase to more than £17bn by 2022. Pension credit also opens up entitlement to other benefits, including housing benefit, free NHS dental treatment, and help with council tax, fuel bills and meeting the costs of a partner’s funeral.Applying for pension credit is, however, a “very complex and intrusive process”, said McNamara, requiring detailed financial information which is not required for any other support. “The stress and pressure involved in providing this information – which can only be provided over the phone – acts as a major deterrent,” he said. McNamara also said, is that eligibility depends on changes in people’s circumstances over time. “The system isn’t designed to pick up on these changes – rather the onus is on the person, who may be living in vulnerable circumstances, to be aware of their new eligibility,” he said.
“There is also a stigma that exists around pension credit, as it is the only means-tested support for pensioners,” he added. “People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to prove that they’re entitled to this basic safety net.”