I strongly believe that everyone deserves financial security in retirement and that the cornerstone of that is a decent State Pension, properly indexed to ensure it keeps its value for future generations of pensioners.
The Government made a manifesto commitment in 2019 to keep the triple lock, and I think it is essential they are held to account for this promise. The state pension is now due to rise by 2.5% in April. However, we also need to know what options are being considered beyond this year, and if there is an intention to continue the triple lock across future years of this Parliament.
It is important to acknowledge that the UK state pension is relatively low by international standards and there are important differences between those who qualify for it. For example, Age UK has highlighted that 34% of private tenants and 29% of social rented sector tenants live in poverty compared to 12% of older people who own their home outright. In addition, 33% of Asian or Asian British and 30% of Black or Black British pensioners are in poverty compared to 15% of white pensioners.
The Government also needs to consider what the pandemic means for 1950s women affected by the change to the State Pension Age, whether there is the opportunity to bring forward more support for them and what immediate action could be taken.
The Government’s own figures show that over a million pensioners who are entitled to Pension Credit are not claiming it, with very serious consequences. This includes the non-payment of tens of millions of pounds-worth of support linked to Pension Credit such as a reduction on their heating bills through the Warm Homes Discount and a continued entitlement to a free TV licence, funded by the BBC, for those aged over 75.
In my view it is wrong that so many pensioners on lower incomes are missing out on this vital financial support during the coronavirus pandemic and the current UK-wide lockdown.
For all these reasons, I call on the Government to do much more to make people aware of Pension Credit and to encourage far greater take-up of it. A clear action plan to do this is needed as quickly as possible if we are to ensure that we make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in.
More widely, I am committed to a pension system that is sustainable, sufficient and able to meet the challenges of an ageing population.
Therefore I have written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to find out what action the Government is taking to protect pensioners and to press them to reconsider the abandonment of their manifesto commitment. Please see a copy below: