Skip to main content

Pensioners: Economic Situation

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps the Government have taken to assist pensioners in the current economic climate; (226330)

(2) what recent steps the Government have taken to assist pensioners in reducing their household bills.

[holding answer 15 October 2008]: There is a statutory requirement to review all social security benefits each year and to increase certain benefits from April each year.

The increases are calculated for most benefits using the annual inflation figure for the preceding September. This ensures that benefits keep their real value in broad terms, and any fluctuations throughout the year feed into this rate.

In addition the Government continue to monitor the economic situation very closely.

The Chancellor announced in his Budget 2008 speech that for winter 2008-09 an additional payment will be made alongside the winter fuel payment. Households with a member aged 60 to 79 will receive an additional £50 and households with a member aged 80 or over will receive an additional £100. This makes the winter fuel payment £250 and £400 respectively for winter 2008-09 which provides a significant contribution towards an older person's winter fuel bill.

On 11 September 2008 the Government announced a new £1 billion package of measures to help people cut their energy bills. Measures on offer deliver significant energy savings including increased help with cavity wall and loft insulation. 11 million lower income and pensioner households are eligible for these free of charge. And for winter 2008-09 cold weather payments will increase in value from £8.50 to £25.00. Cold weather payments are made to vulnerable people in receipt of qualifying benefits, including pension credit, if there is a period of very cold weather in their area.

Addressing pensioner poverty has been one of the Government's key priorities since 1997. The number of pensioners in relative poverty in the UK has fallen from 2.9 million in 1998-99 to 2.1 million in 2006-07. Once housing costs are accounted for, pensioners are less likely to be in poverty than the population as a whole.

Pension credit, a key element of the strategy to tackle pensioner poverty, ensures no pensioner need live on less than £124.05 for single people and £189.35 for couples. It makes a difference to the income of millions of older people. Since pension credit was introduced in 2003 the number of pensioners in relative poverty has fallen by around 500,000.

Non-cash benefits in kind make a real difference to the lives of millions of UK pensioners. These include free NHS prescriptions and eye tests for those over 60 and free TV licences for those over 75. People aged over 60 and disabled people living in England are entitled to free England-wide off-peak bus travel, and similar schemes are available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. British Citizens born before 2 September 1929 can apply for a free 10-year UK passport and from April 2009 local authorities will be able to offer free swimming to the over 60s, in a scheme jointly funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health and Department of Work and Pensions.