The attack on the 3.9 million 50s women who have lost their pension income is about to be stepped up again – with the poorest pensioners suffering a new round of misery as a result of legislation passed by the coalition government in 2013.
The Mirror in a scoop last week by Dan Bloom has revealed that nearly one million women who could have claimed pension credit have been denied cold weather payments this year because of the rise in the pension age.
Pension credit is paid to the poorest people who can’t qualify for a pension and have less than £10,000 savings but it is linked to the pension age. It is also the passport to other benefits – including cold weather payments. This year’s cold weather provoked by the Beast from the East has meant more money has had to be paid out – but ministers have saved millions by raising the pension age.
According to the Mirror: There were 2.6 million eligible claimants on Pension Credit in 2010/11, the Commons Library figures show.
That fell to 2.4million in 2012/13, 2.1million in 2014/15, 1.9million in 2015/16, 1.8million in 2016/17 and 1.7million in 2017/18.
But there is worse in the pipeline. From this June a particularly nasty measure comes into force for new people claiming pension credit. Basically it means that if a woman falls for a younger man or a man falls for a younger woman – their entitlement to pension credit is forfeited when they reach the new higher pension age.
Previously the law said when the oldest person in a relationship reached pension age they qualified for pension credit. Now it is being changed to the youngest person in the relationship reaching pension age. This means if there were a 10 year difference – the oldest person could get no pension credit payment until they were 76 – ten years after the raised retirement age.
The details are in this document here. House of Commons library Pension Credit – 2017 onwards. You can access it here.
The money involved is substantial :
Standard minimum guarantee single £159.35 couple £243.
Additional amount for severe disability
single£62.45 couple (one qualifies) £62.45 couple (both qualify)£124.90
Additional amount for carers £34.95
But there are also two other changes in the small print of pension changes coming into force. One involved a rather obscure named Assessed Income Period (AIP)introduced by Labour in 2002 and 2008.
“The Labour Government’s intention, with the introduction of AIPs, was to make means-testing less intrusive for pensioners, by no longer requiring them to report changes of circumstance to the Pension Service on a weekly basis,” according to House of Commons library.
This meant the government only means tested people every five years and once pensioners reached 75 it stopped. At the time Tories and Liberal Democrats were worried that if people got worse off they wouldn’t get extra benefits.
Once both parties were in power they decided to abolish this – but not for that reason. The financial impact of such a change was shown in 2013 to benefit the government with cuts worth £45m by making it law that pensioners lucky enough to get any extra income had to report it immediately so they could slash pension credit.
Another cut came into force in 2016. This reduced the period people on pensioners credit could go abroad from 13 weeks to four – without having the benefit taken away. As one of the comments from Buried News points out allowing people to spend a cold winter in warmer climes might help the elderly. But both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats at the time would have nothing of it.
The benefit is only claimed by 60 per cent of the people who are entitled to it. The House of Commons library report said: “Up to 1.4 million families who were entitled to receive Pension Credit did not claim it and up to £3.3 billion of available Pension Credit went unclaimed.”
Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, told Parliament:” We are committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to and the Department targets activity on engaging with people who may be eligible at pivotal stages such as when they claim State Pension or report a change in their circumstances.”
He claimed the best way to help the elderly was to create “a web-based Pension Credit toolkit containing a range of resources for anyone working with pensioners.”
Somehow given his determination to slash the pension budget I suspect few people will believe he is really committed to that.