Thursday, 29 March 2012

Means-testing fails a million pensioners

Government says means-testing Pension Credit isn't working, but Age UK tell ministers to try harder (see below).

A government attempt to try to persuade more older people to claim means-tested pension credit has had little impact, the Pensions Minister Steve Webb has admitted.

A million pensioners on low incomes are entitled to the top-up payment - which raises the state pension from £102.15 to £137.35 a week - but don't put in claims.

But when the Department for Work and Pensions selected 2,000 of them, paid them automatically for 12 weeks and then encouraged them to claim, only 8 per cent did so.

A further 2,000 were visited by DWP staff, but only 13 per cent of this second group put in successful claims.

"Despite our best efforts, mass means-testing has failed pensioners," Steve Webb said, "Pension Credit is not getting to over a million people who are entitled to it."

The minister said a a new flat rate pension of around £140, to be introduced in the next Parliament - after 2015 - would ensure pensioners "have a decent and secure income in retirement".

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK says:

“While we welcome the flat rate pension for future pensioners it is still vital that the Government continues to work proactively on ways of getting money to older people who are in desperate need.

“Too many older people have had negative experiences when making claims or still think they are not entitled to the money. The result of this study confirms just how many barrier there are for older people when it comes to claiming benefits

As the study and our work with older people shows pension credit can make a significant difference to a person’s quality of life. The Government must continue to work proactively on ways of getting money to older people who are in desperate need and ensure we move more towards a system where the DWP pay entitlements rather than an individual having to work their way through the benefits maze.

"We would urge any older person who is struggling or worried about money to contact to call our free advice line on 0800 169 6565 or speak to their local Age UK."

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