Call to Reform Pension Credit
The Press Association
September 25, 2008
Pensioner groups have urged the Government to reform the Pension Credit, claiming it was continuing to fail older people five years after it was first launched.
They said nearly a third of people who were eligible for the benefit were not receiving it, with up to £2.8 billion going unclaimed.
Age Concern is calling on the Government to take urgent action to increase take up, while the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) wants the benefit to be scrapped altogether and replaced with a state pension of £151 a week that rises each year in line with earnings.
The call came as research carried out for Age Concern showed that more than half of older people were cutting back on essentials such as heating and food in a bid to make ends meet, while one in 10 pensioners on low incomes have been forced into debt by the rising cost of living.
Two-thirds of pensioners said they were cutting back on the amount of gas and electricity they were using, and 49% said they were planning to cut back on using their heating this winter. Just over half of older people also said they were buying less or poorer quality food.
But the research also found that the Pension Credit has made a noticeable difference to 82% of claimants, with 56% of those who receive it saying they worry less about essential bills.
Age Concern wants the Government to introduce a new system under which the Pension Credit and other benefits are paid automatically to those who are eligible for them without people having to submit claims. It said if the benefit was paid automatically, those missing out on it would be an average of £1,477 a year better off.
In the meantime, it said older people should be able to claim all means-tested benefits through a single telephone claim line.
The group also called on the Government to make an emergency payment of at least £100 to all pensioners entitled to benefits in the light of the exceptional increases in the cost of living seen this year, as well as running a high profile campaign to improve the take up of benefits.
The Government has announced plans to automatically check whether recipients of the Pension Credit are also eligible for council tax benefit and housing benefit, but Age Concern wants it to go further.
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