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Pensioners: Poverty

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 1 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures the Government has implemented to help pensioners out of poverty since 1997. (201558)

The Government have introduced a number of measures since 1997 to help older people out of poverty. These include the introduction of the minimum income guarantee and its successor pension credit. We have successively raised the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit by earnings in every year since its introduction. For 2008 we raised the standard minimum guarantee to £124.05—an increase of 4.2 per cent.—more than keeping pace with earnings and prices. The value of the safety net we provide for the poorest pensioners has increased by over a third in real terms since 1997.

In addition we have introduced winter fuel payments for those aged 60 or over, with a higher amount for those 80 or over. And we will be making an additional payment for winter 2008-09 of £50 for households with someone aged 60-79 and £100 for those with someone aged 80 or over. We have also introduced free television licences for people aged 75 or over and made above inflation increases in the basic state pension.

Between 1996-97 and 2005-06 the number of pensioners in poverty in the UK, after housing costs, has fallen by over a third from 2.9 million to 1.8 million (measured by 60 per cent. of contemporary median income after housing costs.) Once housing costs are accounted for, pensioners are less likely to be in poverty than the population as a whole.

Our commitments in the Pensions Act 2007 to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee in line with earnings over the long term, and to reintroduce the earnings link to basic state pension from 2012, or by the end of the next parliament, will help secure these gains into the future.