Older peoples’ charity Independent Age has found that £3.5bn set aside to help the least well off pensioners through Pension Credit is going unclaimed. This includes £8,275,000 in our constituency of Bolton South East.
Often pensioners are unaware that they qualify for Pension Credit. This is especially concerning when you see that pension poverty is increasing, with the most recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finding that one in six pensioners is living in poverty.
The Government has not taken enough action to rectify this situation and is seemingly happy for a significant section of Pension Credit to go unclaimed. No doubt the reduced spend on benefits will be spun as the Government ‘getting tough on benefit scroungers’, when in reality it is pensioners who have worked and paid into the system all their lives that are losing out.
It is also worth noting that these findings from Independent Age come at the same time as free TV licences for over 75s are being means tested. This happened after the Government shifted the responsibility to fund the scheme onto the BBC, without providing any additional funding to pay for it. I was alarmed by Age UK’s analysis which shows that scrapping free TV licences could push 50,000 pensioners below the poverty line.
The Government is failing pensioners on multiple fronts, but I believe that the Pension Credit issue is the most egregious. Pensioners are being left to struggle whilst the Government is hiding-away their money in the hope that they won’t find it.
I have written to Guy Opperman, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, and called on him to ensure that pensioners that can claim Pension Credit are made aware of this fact.
To find out if you, or someone you know, qualifies for Pension Credit you can check your eligibility here.