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Inflation and Food Prices: Pensioners

Volume 737: debated on Monday 4 September 2023

5. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of trends in the level of (a) inflation and (b) food prices on pensioners’ incomes. (906147)

13. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of trends in the level of (a) inflation and (b) food prices on pensioners’ incomes. (906155)

We know that 770,000 pensioners are eligible for pension credit but are not receiving it. A few months ago, I joined my local citizens advice bureau to organise a pension credit action day. As a result, an additional £200,000 was drawn down to people across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. The Government have the data and could take a much more targeted approach to get eligible people to apply, so why have they not taken that action? When will we see more action from the Government?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work he is doing in his constituency. I assure him that that is exactly what the Government are doing. We recently launched an “invitation to claim” trial, which has been rolled out in 10 constituencies and is using housing benefit data to target those who might also be eligible for pension credit. We will report back on the results of that trial later this year.

It might be hard to imagine on a sunny day like today, but winter is just around the corner. The reality for many worried pensioners in my constituency is that this winter there will be a choice between heating and eating. We have a Government who are tiptoeing around the real issues while our constituents struggle to make ends meet. When will the Government make a real plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and implement meaningful action to help thousands of pensioners in poverty?

With respect to the hon. Lady, that is exactly what we are doing. That is why we have put the cost of living payments in place, which are worth £900 to all those on pension credit, and why a cost of living pensioner payment worth £300 is coming out in the winter. All the while the Labour Mayor of London is charging pensioners £12.50 when they want to drive to the hospital.

Clearly, there is a stigma attached to claiming pension credit, because this is on poorer pensioners who desperately need the money. What action can my hon. Friend take to remove that stigma? My constituency has recently been added to the pilot, and I am looking forward to its results, because elderly people deserve to get the money they need to fulfil their lives.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on that, and I praise all the work he has done in his constituency on pension credit. We are trying to do exactly what he sets out: encourage as many people as possible to claim this important benefit, at a time when they are going to need it most. I note that across the House good work has been done in individual constituencies.

As inflation rises, being able to top up pension contributions is vital for many part-time workers, who would otherwise not be able to claim the full state pension. However, a Daily Mail investigation showed that the Government are failing to accurately record people’s top-up contributions. Pensioners are terrified that their money has simply disappeared, so when will the Government get a grip of this terrible problem? When will Ministers show that they understand the pressure on families and pensioners due to the cost of living crisis?

With the comprehensive package of support I have talked about today, we have shown that we are taking action during the cost of living crisis to help pensioners as much as we can. We know that accuracy is the most important thing when it comes to the state pension, which is why we have taken action very quickly to correct issues where they have occurred, for example, with LEAP—the legal entitlement and administrative practices exercise. We will do the same in all such cases.