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Pensioners: Poverty

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many pensioners resident in Stroud constituency were officially defined as poor in each year since 1997; (318979)

(2) what her most recent estimate is of the level of pensioner poverty in Stroud constituency; and what steps her Department has taken to assist those affected.

The Government use a basket of three key thresholds of income, after housing costs, to measure pensioner poverty. The most commonly used figures relate to those with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income, after housing costs.

Estimates of poverty, published in the Households Below Average Income series, only allow a breakdown of the overall number of people in poverty at Government office region level. Therefore, information for the Stroud constituency is not available, though figures relating to the south-west Government office region are.

Three-year averages are used to report regional statistics as single-year estimates are subject to volatility. Figures are quoted to the nearest 100,000. The following table shows the number and percentage of pensioners in the south-west Government office region who have incomes below 60 per cent. of the contemporary median income:

Number and percentage of pensioners in the south-west Government office region with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median after housing costs

Number of pensioners

Percentage of pensioners

1997-98 to 1999-2000



1998-99 to 2000-01



1999-2000 to 2001-02



2000-01 to 2002-03



2001-02 to 2003-04



2002-03 to 2004-05



2003-04 to 2005-06



2004-05 to 2006-07



2005-06 to 2007-08




1. Figures are published in the Households Below Average Incomes (HBAI) series for 2007-08, and are based on FES figures up to 1997-98, and on the FRS from 1998-99. Three sample years have been combined for regional statistics as single year estimates are subject to volatility.

2. Number of pensioners has been rounded to the nearest 100,000. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole percentage point.

3. Changes between periods are calculated based on unrounded figures and therefore may differ from the difference between the rounded figures presented above.

The final row in this table, covering the three year period 2005-06 to 2007-08 is the most recent estimate of pensioner poverty in the south-west region produced in the Department.

Our strategy since 1997 has been to target help on the poorest pensioners while providing a solid foundation of support for all.

We have a good track record of reducing pensioner poverty. In 2007-08 there were 900,000 fewer pensioners in relative poverty than in 1998-99 (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income after housing costs). Today’s pensioners are less likely to be living in relative poverty after housing costs than the population as a whole.

In 1997, the poorest pensioners, who received Income Support, lived on around £69 a week (equivalent to £98 a week in today’s prices). Today pension credit ensures that no pensioner needs to live on less than £130 a week or £198.45 a week for couples). This represents an increase in income by almost a third in real terms. And many of those on pension credit will also be entitled to additional support through housing benefit and council tax benefit.

The Pension, Disability and Carers Service continue to promote take-up of benefits for those entitled. This involves data matching to identify entitled non-recipients, home visits for vulnerable customers, targeted local marketing and media campaigns, a simple claim process involving telephones as well as paper claims and ever closer working with partner organisations. The Department is also looking at innovative ways of using information that we already hold to make payments of pension credit more automatically to entitled non-recipients.

In the Pensions Act 2007, we made a commitment to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee at least in line with average earnings over the long-term. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has commented that without this, it is likely there would be significant increases in pensioner poverty in the future.

We have also made a commitment to re-link the uprating of the basic state pension to average earnings. Our objective, subject to affordability and the fiscal position, is to do this in 2012, but in any event by the end of the next Parliament at the latest. This will benefit almost 12 million pensioners.