Benefits System ‘Too Complicated’ For Pensioners

Half a million pensioners live in poverty because the current benefits system is too complex, a leading charity has claimed. Help the Aged said new research, carried out for the charity by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, shows the government has failed to modernise the way means-tested benefits are calculated.

As a result the charity claims 500,000 people live in poverty unnecessarily. According to the research those people would be lifted out of the poverty trap if they claimed their full entitlement to council-tax benefit, housing benefit and pension credit.

However, Help the Aged said pensioners are put off claiming all the benefits they are entitled to because the system is too complicated. The charity called for the introduction of automatic payments to ensure those entitled to extra benefits did not miss out.

Anna Pearson, policy manager for Help the Aged, said: “This report is the undeniable proof that pensioner poverty can be overcome. In terms of options for tackling it, the government is spoilt for choice. Automatic payment of benefits would make a massive difference to older people devastated by pensioner poverty. Half a million lives could change dramatically overnight and it is a completely cost-effective way of tackling pensioner poverty.”

The charity also asked the government to bring forward to 2008 a plan to link the basic state pension to average earnings. They claim this would help lift a further 100,000 pensioners out of poverty. Around 2.2 million older people in the UK live in poverty, half of whom live well below the official poverty line.

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: “Claiming the benefits they’re owed could make a massive difference to the quality of life of millions of pensioners. However, we know that many older people find means-tested benefits complicated to claim, are embarrassed about claiming or simply don’t know they’re entitled to the extra cash. The government must do everything it can to help pull vulnerable older people out of poverty.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said: “It’s no good having provision to help people if the system to access it is so complicated most people can’t understand it. This is another example of Gordon Brown’s massively complicated benefit system which is failing to help people out of poverty.”