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Pension Credit

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

In May, more than 2.7 million households—3.3 million individuals—in Great Britain were receiving pension credit. That is nearly 1 million more than received the minimum income guarantee that preceded it.

Because pension credit rises each year in line with average earnings, more and more people are becoming eligible for it. What I find locally is that people do not complain about being caught in a web of means-testing; they are just very pleased to be receiving extra pension. Some previously unsuccessful applicants, however, are not aware that they may now be eligible. What is my hon. Friend doing about that?

The Pension Service is undertaking a thorough exercise. We visit more than 1 million people a year to try to ensure that they are claiming the benefits to which they are entitled. I believe we have written to all pensioner households to ensure that they are aware of their entitlements, and there are significant examples of people receiving, in some cases, thousands of pounds as a result. It is definitely worth while for people to ring the Pension Service, or ask for a home visit, so that they can discuss their benefits and obtain that extra help.

The problem with pension credit is that hundreds of thousands of pensioners are simply not claiming the benefit. To what extent is that hindering the Government’s attempts to take 1.8 million pensioners out of poverty?

Far from hindering our attempts, it has helped us to lift 2 million people out of poverty. I remind the hon. Gentleman that whereas when we came to power pensioners were having to survive on £69 a week, they now have £114 a week. For the first time, pensioners are no more likely to be poor than any other section of the population, which is a remarkable achievement during a period of economic prosperity.