I start by welcoming the hon. Lady to her seat and to her first Wales questions. I am sure that she will be as strong an advocate for her constituents as her predecessor, who was a much valued Member of this place.
The Government are committed to ensuring economic security for people at every stage of their life, including when they reach retirement. There were more than 100,000 claimants in Wales in receipt of pension credit in August 2018.
The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has found that £170 million of pension credit went unclaimed in 2016-17. This is a massive amount of money that could make a real difference to some of the poorest people in Wales. We know that pensioners in Wales are not taking up pension credit, but how are the Government monitoring this to note any recognisable trends, and what are they doing to ensure that pensioners in Wales receive the money that is rightfully theirs?
I would be concerned to hear of any person not getting the support that this Parliament has voted for them to have. We are engaging with people who may be eligible for these benefits at pivotal stages, such as when they claim state pension or report a change in their circumstances. We are also looking to work with stakeholders such as Independent Age and Age UK to discuss pension credit take-up across Great Britain. I encourage Members of Parliament to play a role in their constituencies.
Some 120,000 pensioners in Wales live in poverty. Today the Government have worsened their financial position with changes to pension credit for mixed-age couples, which will leave some married pensioners worse off by up to £7,000 a year. Will the Secretary of State meet the shadow Wales team, Citizens Advice Wales and pensioner organisations to listen to the just concerns and grievances of elderly citizens who have paid into the system their entire lives and now feel betrayed and left behind by this Government?
I suppose it is somewhat apt that a question on mixed-age couples comes to me—for those who know my own background. This is about balancing fairness between the taxpayers who pay for the pension system and welfare system, and those who need to benefit from it, and we do not believe that this change is unfair. However, we do need to ensure that those who are entitled to pension credit take it up and receive it. I am always happy to meet people to discuss how we can do that.
Colleagues, today Ms Gladys Kokorwe, the Speaker of the Botswanan Parliament, is visiting the House. Indeed, she is with us for the rest of the week, accompanied by a team of colleagues. Madam Speaker, we warmly welcome you to our Parliament; we value our relations with you and your country.