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Covid-19: Support for Older People

Volume 682: debated on Wednesday 21 October 2020

This Government are determined to support older people during the pandemic, and my Department is working to support people of all ages to remain in and return to work. We have published guidance on working safely during the covid-19 pandemic and continue to work with national employer organisations on improving support for the over-50s. Our £30 billion plan for jobs provides back-to-work support for all ages, including doubling the number of work coaches, increasing sector-based work academy places and a new Department for Work and Pensions job finding support service.

In my Glenrothes and Central Fife constituency, over 2,000 pensioner households are losing out on £5.4 million in pension credit payments every year because they do not know that they are entitled to them. Fife Council launched an uptake campaign in the Glenrothes area, but it was curtailed because of the covid pandemic; I have to declare an interest, as I am married to the chair of the council’s Glenrothes area committee. The Scottish Government have published an uptake strategy for the benefits under their control. Will the Minister agree to urge her Cabinet colleagues to enshrine in law a duty for the UK Government to do the same for pension credits and other benefits that are controlled at Westminster?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that on 6 May, we launched the “Apply for Pension Credit” service, which is an online claim service that supplements the existing telephone and—[Inaudible.]

I think somebody else might need to answer this question! It is estimated that there is more than £2 billion out there every year that is the legal right of older people on those islands. Pension credit does not make anybody wealthy, but it can make the difference between the loneliness and misery that poverty brings and the joy of simply being able to engage in life again. Will the Minister responsible for fighting for those older people agree to take this on as an equalities issue and put resources into ensuring that people have the knowledge and support—including support in using the online service she mentioned—to access what is, after all, a legal entitlement?

Apologies. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

In supporting our older people, pension credit is an absolute priority for this Government, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, about 1 million pensioners—close to that number—who are pension credit customers will receive a winter windfall of £140 off their fuel bills, thanks to the Government working with energy firms to cut costs. This Government are determined to do all we can to support pensioners, and the DWP cross-match these pension credit customers with the data held by pension suppliers. I am sure that we will continue to support pensioners as widely as we can through this pandemic and ongoing.[Official Report, 2 November 2020, Vol. 683, c. 2MC.]