New figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal an additional 65,000 individuals, or 50,000 households, received Pension Credit in the first quarter of this year.
Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett, endorsed the figures in front of MPs during Question Time yesterday, saying as of March, close to 3.29 million people received the government pension benefit, designed to aid those living below the poverty line.
Blunkett’s defence comes days after Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy called for the scrapping of ‘unfair’ means testing, stating: “Means-testing has helped create a pensions system which is in a complete muddle - both complex and ineffective.”
Kennedy says millions of pensioners are living in poverty, while many women are left with ‘insultingly small pensions’, with a system too complex for comprehension by individuals.
Pensions Minister Stephen Timms, meanwhile, says Pension Credit is an immediate relief for those people least well off, adding its value to alleviate the poverty crisis of nearly 2 million pensioners and reducing the scandal of pensioner poverty by nearly two thirds.
Timms says: "We will continue to work with voluntary organisations and stakeholders to improve take-up among harder to reach groups."
Pension Credit guarantees everyone aged 60 and over an income of at least £109.45 for individuals, with partners receiving £167.05.
Meanwhile, 20% of single female pensioners are currently living in poverty, while only 16% of women qualify for a full basic state pension on their own contributions compared with 78% of men, new research indicates.
A survey conducted by charity group, Age Concern finds a third of women rely on their partners for a pension.
Moreover, 75% of respondents want carers or those in part-time or low-paid work to have their contribution recognised in the same light as full-time employment, while a further six in ten want the government to reduce the number of years in which to qualify for a pension or introduce a pension based on residency.
Age Concern argues the current system stretching from the 1940’s, is rigid and inflexible for people with non-traditional working patterns, adding women, especially carers, full-time mothers and low-paid or part-time workers who are losing out.
Head of public affairs at Age Concern England, Michelle Mitchell says: “Since 1997 the government has done a lot to reduce poverty but much more needs to be done. The government must ensure that preventing future poverty and ensuring fairness for those on low and modest incomes is central to their thinking.”
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Gareth Vorster on 020 7968 4554 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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