Currently 2 in 5 of the poorest pensioners in the UK who are eligible for Pension Credit do not receive this much needed benefit.
That’s why we were pleased when, on Thursday 23rd January 2020, the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee specifically spoke about Pension Credit during a hearing focused on benefit take-up. This was one in a series that have been running since September 2019, investigating what more could be done to improve the number of people receiving benefits. The Inquiry is looking at both benefits that the Scottish Government has responsibility for, as well as others, including Pension Credit which the UK Government administers to people across Great Britain.
“For elderly people there was too much prove this, copy of that, when did you last work, etc. It’s far too complex for people who are struggling both emotionally and financially. Lots of people need help to complete this information whether it be by phone or paper form.”
The launch of the Inquiry followed on from a sustained period of activity for our Credit where it’s due campaign which aims to ensure people entitled to Pension Credit receive it. Nearly 3,000 of our campaigners have contacted their MP about this issue, and shared the campaign on social media. We secured support from over 100 MPs, resulting in a Westminster Hall debate, a Prime Minister’s question, and national and local press coverage.
Thanks to everyone across Great Britain who wrote to their MP about this important issue since we launched the campaign in June 2019, including many people in Scotland. The emails and letters you sent, and the survey responses you provided, have really helped us keep this issue on the public agenda. And, it’s clear that MPs, and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are starting to take notice. In recent months, politicians in Scotland have been focusing in on this important issue, with Ruth Maguire MSP and Mark Griffin MSP both raising - in Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish Parliament - their concerns around the number of people missing out on Pension Credit.
This new Inquiry is a fantastic opportunity for us to ensure that the voice of people in later life is heard by the decision makers.
In advance of their first hearing, the Scottish Social Security Committee put out a call for evidence to discover more about the key problems with benefit take-up. Independent Age provided a written submission, which included people’s personal stories of how Pension Credit has improved their lives, and the shocking figures that over £332 million pounds of Pension Credit is not reaching the people entitled to it in Scotland. In addition we shared our new survey findings from Scottish supporters which gave insight into the benefits of receiving Pension Credit, and the perceived barriers to claiming it under the current system.
We were pleased to see that this week’s Inquiry session focused on automating the distribution of benefits to ensure people don’t miss out on what they are entitled to. The MSPs took evidence from representatives at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). There was a strong emphasis on Pension Credit with committee members questioning the speakers about what the Government could do to increase the number of people receiving this much needed benefit, including asking the DWP to conduct more research and produce a strategy to increase up-take. This was not surprising as take-up of Pension Credit is significantly lower compared to many other benefits such as Housing Benefit and Child Benefit.
The committee’s suggestions were encouraging and echo our own calls for the Government to create an action plan which includes up-to-date research to understand the issues around low take-up rates.
The Committee pressed the DWP to look again at their 2010 auto-enrolment pilot for Pension Credit, and to run another one focusing on better sharing of data to prompt people who might be receiving other benefits to claim the additional ones they might be entitled to.
Eradicating Pensioner Poverty
16% of pensioners currently live in poverty, almost 2 million people. What I found most striking was the representative from the DWP revealed that, if the 16% of UK pensioners who live in poverty received all the benefits they were entitled to, that figure would reduce to almost be 0%.
This new Government now has a huge opportunity. If they address this injustice, and ensure all pensioners receive what they are owed, they could be credited with taking a necessary action to eradicate pensioner poverty.
Sadly, right now this is not the reality, which is why we welcome this Inquiry in the Scottish Parliament which is shining a light on this important issue. Change will only happen if politicians in Westminster act, so we at Independent Age will continue to campaign to ensure the poorest older people receive what they are owed and get Credit where it’s due.
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