Older people in Stevenage are losing out on almost £4million each year because of the Government’s failure to act on unpaid Pension Credit, according to the charity Independent Age.
Analysis based on data from the Department for Work and Pensions, found that over 1500 pensioner households in Stevenage are missing out on an average of £56.10 a week because of unclaimed Pension Credit. It is estimated that four in ten pensioner households who are entitled to the benefit do not receive it and well over one million pensioner households across the country are missing out.
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit available to people who have reached State Pension Age but, each year, the Government keeps hold of £3.5 billion that is left unclaimed. As a result, since the 2017 general election, £7 billion set aside to help the least well off pensioners in society has returned to the Treasury. This figure will increase to more than £17 billion by 2022.
The last Labour Government introduced Pension Credit to make sure that every pensioner had a minimum level of income. Because of Labour’s action, pensioner poverty decreased consistently but now, under the Tories, it’s on the rise again with 226 pensioners falling into poverty each day. Of the 1.9 million older people currently living in poverty, 1.1 million are in severe poverty, and one in ten are experiencing persistent poverty.
On top of this, many of the poorest pensioners will lose their free TV licence, despite the Tories’ promise at the last General Election that this wouldn’t happen. Earlier this month, the BBC announced that, from June 2020, people over-75 will no longer automatically qualify for a free TV licence. Instead, free TV licenses will be linked to Pension Credit and those not receiving the benefit will lose their free licences.
Pension Credit can also open up entitlement to other benefits, including Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, free NHS dental treatment, help with fuel bills and meeting the costs of a loved one’s funeral.
To tackle the problem, Independent Age is calling for the Government to set out a clear and specific commitment to making sure that Pension Credit reaches everyone who needs it. The charity wants the Government to set a target to ensure that at least 75% of eligible people receive Pension Credit by the end of 2020, at least 95% by the end of 2022, and 100% by 2025.
Pension Credit should provide a basic safety net to prevent older people from slipping into poverty and the Government needs to take urgent action to ensure that it’s reaching those who need it.
Jill Borcherds, Labour parliamentary candidate for Stevenage said “Older people should live in dignity with our respect. Only Labour has the policies to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Labour is committed to keeping the Winter Fuel Allowance, Free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners.”