Spring Budget branded a “missed opportunity” to help the poorest pensioners

While the financial pundits pontificate over the finer details of the Spring Budget, and politicians of all colours ponder over its potential impact on the next General Election, the significance for pensioners is clearly… well, insignificant. By Tony Watts OBE.

“Was that it?” asked Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK. “This Budget was something of a non-event for older people, with very few announcements of much interest or relevance to them.”

Independent Age Chief Executive Joanna Elson described it as “a missed opportunity to help those in later life already living in financial hardship and address the incoming pensioner poverty surge”.

While the reductions in National Insurance (NI) will be welcomed by people in their fifties and early sixties in employment, they won’t help the increasing numbers of older people working beyond their State Pension Age because they can’t afford to retire… because they do not pay NI. 

Nor has the move helped those retired people with modest pensions – many of whom are now finding themselves paying income tax because personal allowances remain frozen. The retention of the Triple Lock, which all parties have committed to, while welcome, will not on its own solve the issue of pensioner poverty. “There is still a long way to go for older people in financial insecurity,” says Joanna Elson, “to be able to afford even the basics. Bills are still astronomically high, and our helpline hears daily from older people rationing themselves to just one meal a day and washing in cold water to save energy.” 

The six-month extension of the Household Support Fund to help people of all ages struggling on low incomes has also been welcomed. But, as Caroline Abrahams points out, that support will not be there next winter, “when high energy bills provoke so much hardship and fear”. The social tariffs on energy and water that charities and campaigners have been calling for would have played a key role in helping those on the very lowest incomes, but that opportunity has been passed up.

Adds Joanna Elson: “Today, the UK Government reiterated its commitment to uprate Pension Credit, but it must now implement a strategic and targeted plan to get this money into eligible pockets. As the latest figures show that up to 880,000 households missed out, an uptake strategy is urgently needed to target those who need financial support but aren’t aware it exists or don’t know they are eligible.”

Health & Social Care

“The extra investment announced into the NHS is, of course, very welcome,” continues Caroline Abrahams. “But we deeply regret the lack of any further investment to help the NHS reduce waiting lists and support GPs to see more patients, more quickly, in the short term – the things older people often tell us they prioritise the most. “And we understand that the picture for other public services, especially social care among other council services, remains incredibly bleak: on behalf of older people, disabled people and their unpaid carers we are sad the Budget did nothing to address this.” 

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