Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said:
“The Chancellor’s Statement today will only have increased the anxieties many older people are feeling as they brace for a harsh year ahead. As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, older people with limited income are desperate for immediate and meaningful action to help with living costs. The Statement today falls far short of delivering that, and it won’t make any real difference for older people already struggling to pay for essentials like heating and food.
“The Chancellor’s sums don’t add up. In April, energy price rises alone will see bills increase by approximately £700, but the government is only making £350 available to help those struggling with these costs, most of which is in the form of a loan. That means the Chancellor is condemning many more people to another difficult year, and it will only get worse as prices continue rising. Our research shows two in five older people spent at least one year in poverty over the last decade, and surging costs threaten to push even more people into hardship. Alarm bells should be ringing in the Treasury, but the Chancellor doesn’t seem to have got the message.
“While it’s positive that the government has committed to reinstating the State Pension triple lock next year, that won’t help the 2.1 million older people who are struggling now.
“The meagre increase of only 3.1% to the State Pension in April means that older people will likely see a real-terms cut in their pension of around £450. Older callers to our helpline are already telling us about the difficult choices they are being forced to take to make ends meet. Some are resorting to skipping meals one day a week so they can pay the bills. That’s why we’re calling for urgent action now to avoid a fast increase in the number of older people in severe pensioner poverty.
“We need targeted support, including for the Treasury to work with the DWP to immediately get Pension Credit to those who are eligible for it. Not only are some older people missing out on this support, but the low take-up of Pension Credit means the government can’t effectively target support at those who need it most.
“Once again, the government is shirking its responsibility, it has tools it can use to deliver support to people through national support schemes, yet it refuses to use them.”