Thank you to all those who contacted me about establishing a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing and about concerns over the level of take-up of Pension Credit.
I hope that the Government takes up the proposal by groups including Independent Age, Centre for Ageing Better, Age UK and National Pensioners Convention to establish a position of a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing (COPA) in England. However, I note that, in October 2022, a Minister stated that the Government has no current plans to create such a role.
Over the past two years, pensioners have faced the impact of a cost-of-living crisis with food prices and energy bills increasing by levels not seen in a generation. In my view, these dramatic price rises show the importance of Pension Credit, which is intended to provide support for pensioners on very modest incomes.
I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s announcement, in the Autumn Statement of 17 November 2022, that Pension Credit will rise by 10%. The rise took effect at the start of April 2023.
However, I worry that the current Government is failing to encourage sufficient take-up of this important benefit. The former Pensions Minister, speaking in October 2022, conceded that take up of Pension Credit has been too low. Indeed, the Government’s own figures show that over a million pensioners who are entitled to it are not claiming it, with very serious consequences. This includes the non-payment of tens of millions of pounds-worth of support linked to Pension Credit such as a reduction on their heating bills through the Warm Homes Discount and a continued entitlement to a free TV licence, funded by the BBC, for those aged over 75.
It is wrong that so many pensioners on lower incomes are missing out on this vital financial help. I know that Ministers cite a £1.2 million public awareness campaign but it is still failing to achieve sufficient success.
The Government must do much more to make people aware of Pension Credit and to encourage far greater take-up of it. A clear action plan to do this is needed as quickly as possible.