Report from Diana Barnes on the NPC Pensioner Poverty Webinar

NPC Webinar: The perfect storm behind pensioner poverty

1st February (Dignity Day) 2022

Intro from General Secretary, Jan Shortt.

More than 2 million pensioners live in poverty now. 1/3 have to choose between eating and heating. 1.1 million more live in hardship: these are mostly 85+, and women are hit worse. Incomes are not keeping pace with rising prices, costs going up further in April esp. energy. Many older people live in poorly insulated homes. Winter Fuel payment used to cover 1/3 bills., now barely 1/8. Free bus passes may go. Crisis in health and social care. Pension Credit is sometimes no help when a small pension might push a person over qualifying rate. Broadband costs money, many older people not online and missing out. We need a dedicated Commissioner for Older People as in Wales and N.Ireland.

Speakers : Karin Smyth, M.P., Shadow Minister for Care

Tom Selby, Head of Retirement Policy, A.J.Bell

Lord Prem Sikka, Emeritus Professor of Accounting, Universities of Sheffield and Essex

Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and influencing, Independent Age

(Gillian Keegan, Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care had not responded to Jan’s invitation to attend.)

Karin Smyth: 85% of care is now private. Dilnott Report not put into action. We must get it right soon, or it will be worse for the next generation. Local Authority funding cut by £8billion. Many commitments made, but not enacted.

Labour wants:  1. Widen access to basic services at home

  1. Prevention, and early intervention
  2. Disabled people enabled to live full and independent lives
  3. Better deal for care workers. Too many vacancies. ‘Care’ to be a good career.
  4. Better partnership with families. I million unpaid family carers.

Adult children should not have to leave work to become carers.

1 million people are missing out on Pension Credit. Find them! There should be legislation preventing scams, often targeting older people.

New housing should be planned for easier access. Labour policy “Home First”- keeping people in their own homes is not only better, but cheaper.


Tom Selby:  PowerPoint presentation: “The cost of living crisis and the State Pension Triple Lock”.

Loss of the earnings element in the Triple Lock will have an impact on the pensions of future retirees. State Pension = 70% of current living wage (outside London), plus Triple Lock- tacit admission that Pension is not enough for dignity and security.


Lord Prem Sikka:   thanks the House of Lords for their support of OP. Triple Lock Bill going thru’ Commons- Labour abstained (!) but the Lords rebelled!

State Pension is now only about 25% of average earnings. He thinks this should be not less than minimum wage- it’s about half that at the moment. Other countries do much better in paying their Old People- their voices count for more in many countries. Helping todays OP helps future retirees.


2.5 million women receive less than £100 per week.  April will see a real-time cut in SP as inflation rises. Need immediate rise of £500 and double winter fuel allowance! This is affordable: Govt was able to bail out the banks and wrote off Covid losses thru’ fraud etc. It’s not right that cancer can be treated on NHS but Dementia/Parkinsons comes under Social Care. No need to raise income tax, as threatened. Govt could tax unearned income- this is actually taxed at a lower rate at present.  Should Tax Capital Gains. Taxing dividends could raise £5 million, which would cover the Triple Lock. Now, for tax rates, the more you earn the less you pay proportionately, and Inheritance Tax is routinely avoided. Richer people can afford to pay accountants to avoid tax. HMRC admits that it loses millions in tax.

Social Care should be brought back into national ownership.

Lord Prem wrote a Paper about this, sent it to Keir Starmer, followed up, sent it again- still no response.


Morgan Vine: ‘Independent Age’: supports people 65+ and their families in obtaining their entitlements. 0800 319 6789.

Many people were struggling before the pandemic, and it’s worse for them now. Some are reluctant to claim, and others are worse off if they don’t know how to claim. 2 million living in poverty, up 5% since 2011, highest ever since 2016. In the last 10 years, 40% spent at least 1 year below the poverty line.

1 in 20 are long-term poor, i.e. for 7-9 years. Some groups are more likely to be poor, and single people suffer alone. 20% of Black people who privately rent have fallen into poverty because of social benefit cuts.

Independent Age is pushing Pension Credit, as millions are missing out. Only 65% of those eligible claim, and there is £1.5- £2 billion in the pot. Pension Credit is the gateway to other benefits, and that can lift people out of poverty. The Govt. doesn’t know who is not claiming but eligible. Could save £4 billion from preventing rescue or hospital stay.


Other comments from the Panel.

  • There are emotional issues as well as physical in poverty- depression, loneliness, bereavements, esp. during Covid-19. 300,000 people 65+ have lost a partner during lockdowns. Research: ‘Grief Encounters’. Many are unaware of possible help and rely on pills or drink.
  • Talking therapies- 6% of people receiving help are 65+, but have the best recovery rate.
  • People ageing without children are an issue- need support, emotional and physical.
  • Digital exclusion: some people will never get onto the internet. Jan Shortt has written about alternatives. They reply about getting training but don’t offer paper/phone options. See NPC Paper ‘Connections for all’, published a year ago.
  • Lord Prem Sikka thinks broadband should be like gas/electricity= necessary. It costs, in equipment and annual fees, and will be going up. Closure of libraries with free access to computers has not helped. Govt gave £5 billion to BT to support digital switchover- they get the money and future income but don’t seem to be getting the job done. NPC are in discussion with BT about the proposed digital switchover, which, if there are power cuts, could leave many people who do not also have mobile phones without means of contact.
  • Some people chose not to be online, but are missing out on a lot. Funding local organisations for peer-to-peer recommendation would help. U3A run computer courses.

Independent Age offers leaflets and advice- factsheets on website

  • Ageism in Govt- Winter Fuel allowance and pensions should go up- impact on future retirees. Peter Lilley has a Bill (mid-Feb) proposing linking social care to insurance- people would pay, and this idea, worryingly, has Govt support. The Lords will vote against it!