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Pensioner Poverty

Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

Through targeted support and additional funding, we have got 900,000 pensioners out of the relative poverty in which they were living in 1997. However, there are still 2 million pensioners in relative poverty, which we define as 60 per cent. or below of median household income.

Does the Minister acknowledge that a reason for that is the complexity and delay involved in applying for benefits, particularly pension credit, for which the form is 18-pages long and the guidance is 19 pages? Does she not accept that, for many people, that is simply a deterrent, which means that they do not claim benefits? Is that not the Government’s intention? If it is not, surely they could find a better way of ensuring that people who are entitled to benefits get them.

First things first: I am proud to be part of the first Government ever to end the link between poverty and old age. A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on 3 December revealed that there has been a historic reversal in the fortunes of pensioners over state pension age, who are now at the lowest risk of being in poverty than any other age group. I do very important work with the Pensions Service in attempting to encourage pension credit recipients to claim, and that service makes 13,000 visits a week to the homes of vulnerable pensioners to take them through the claim form. People can claim for pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit in the same phone call, and the hon. Gentleman’s own local authority—Aberdeenshire—is one of 203 local authorities working in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions to improve the take-up of pension credit, and we believe that we are succeeding.