Case study

The overlooked over-75s

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Author: Sue Arthur and Ciaran Osborne, Independent Age

Date: 22 November 2016

Type of case study: Research

About the research

In April 2016 the UK government introduced a new State Pension for people who reach State Pension age on or after the 6 April 2016. The new pension aims to provide a simple state pension system, to reduce gender inequalities and to reduce government expenditure, making the state pension affordable and sustainable in the long-term (Department for Work and Pensions, 2014).

Following the introduction of the new State Pension, Independent Age reviewed the financial circumstances of current pensioners who will not benefit from the new system. In collaboration with Dr Matt Barnes of City University London, Independent Age carried out new analysis to better understand the differences in the financial circumstances of older people, in particular of those aged 75 and over who lived through the Second World War – sometimes called the ‘Silent Generation’.

The study consists of the analysis of income data and looks at the differences between groups of older people, identifying those who are at risk of being forgotten on low incomes.

The findings stand in stark contrast to the ongoing narrative of intergenerational unfairness, which tends to focus on better-off older people. In fact, the analysis showed that older pensioners’ incomes are on average £59 a week lower than younger pensioners, and £112 a week lower than working age adults.

The report also revealed that one fifth of those aged 75 and over are living below the poverty line, with women, single people and renters particularly likely to be overstretched financially.  Over 75s are also twice as likely as under 75s to have been in poverty persistently for the last four years and are unlikely to see significant increases in their income during their lifetime.

Findings also show that older pensioners are also less likely to claim Pension Credit, a benefit designed to boost the income of the poorest pensioners – an estimated three quarters of a million over 75s are entitled but are failing to claim, often unaware they qualify.

Methodology

The findings presented in this report are based on the analysis of different sources of data.

Data from the Family Resources Survey (2013/2014) and Understanding Society (2009-2014) were used to analyse incomes and circumstances of private households in the UK. The official poverty estimates used in the report are published by the Department for Work and Pensions and are presented in the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series.

The authors also carried out a number of qualitative interviews to help illustrate the experience of living on a low income in old age.

Findings for policy:

Independent Age’s report emphasises that “is vital for the government to take concerted action to ensure older people have the support they need to live independently, and to maintain their dignity, choice and control”. The study’s findings have important potential policy implications, especially for three groups of older people who are particularly at risk of poverty: renters, women and single people.

The report suggests that the government should address the following challenges:

  • re-energise efforts to promote the take up of Pension Credit and other benefits to the groups of older people most at risk of living in poverty – in particular single older people, older women and older renters
  • introduce a ‘triple lock’ on Pension Credit – which unlike the State Pension increases only in line with average earnings – to guarantee that recipients of the ‘old’ State Pension do not suffer a relative decline in their state income
  • ensure that lower income pensioners continue to receive vital universal benefits like the Winter Fuel Payment and the free bus pass
  • guarantee that proposed reforms to Attendance Allowance will not introduce a means test, and will not result in reduced incomes for older people

The House of Commons submitted Early day motion 133 in June 2016 to debate the findings of the report: “this House expresses concern at the findings of the recent report by Independent Age, entitled The overlooked over-75s, that an estimated 20 per cent of older pensioners are living in poverty; and urges the Government to take immediate remedial action to reduce this figure so that those who have contributed to this country their entire lives can enjoy their retirement in dignity.”

The report has also been used by the The Finance Foundation as evidence in the When I’m 84. Locking the Door on the Older Old: the Challenge Facing Britain's Banks report that looks at the issues faced by those in their 80s, 90s and beyond in managing routine financial matters.

Read the report:

Independent Age (2016) ‘The overlooked over-75s: Poverty among the ‘Silent Generation’ who lived through the Second World War’. Available at  https://www.independentage.org/sites/default/files/2016-05/pensioner-poverty-report_final_website.pdf

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