A new analysis found nearly 2.2million people aged 65-plus were in “relative poverty” in 2019-20 – an increase of nearly 317,600 on the previous 12 months. Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, said it is “deeply worrying that pensioner poverty levels are on the rise”. The Labour analysis of Government statistics found the biggest increase was in the 70 to 74 age group, with an increase of more than 134,000 people living in relative poverty.
People are in relative poverty if they receive less than 60 percent of the median average net household income after housing costs.
There is also concern that many of the poorest pensioners are missing out on help because huge amounts of pension credit are going unclaimed.
Research by the House of Commons Library found around £1.56billion was left unclaimed in 2018-19 – almost a quarter of all pension credit that was payable that year.
Older pensioners may be suffering a further blow to their finances because people aged 75-plus now only qualify for a free TV licence if they or their partner receives pension credit.
Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “We know that the poor take-up of pension credit is making a bad situation worse when it comes to pensioner poverty… [The] evidence is clear much more needs to be done to ensure the money intended for the poorest households actually reaches those who need it.”
Former Conservative pensions minister Baroness Altmann urged members of the public to ensure pensioners they knew received the benefit.
She said: “It is important that anyone who has relatives that might be living below the poverty line makes every effort to help them ask for the help to which they are entitled. And even if they get very small amounts of pension credit itself, they will also be entitled to potential additional benefits worth thousands of pounds. They can get help with their rent, mortgage costs, council tax, heating bills, payments for dental treatment or opticians and, if over 75, a free TV licence as well.”
Age UK’s Ms Abrahams warned that for many pensioners “the smallest increase in expenditure, such as an unexpectedly high utility bill, can quickly tip the scales”.
She said: “Action is urgently needed to prevent even more pensioners from slipping below the poverty line.”
Matt Rodda, Labour’s shadow pensions minister warned that “far too many people are retiring into poverty”.
He said: No one who has worked hard throughout their life should find themselves in this situation – the Conservatives are letting Britain’s pensioners down.”
Pensions Minister Guy Opperman defended the Government’s record, saying: “This country is now spending more on pensioners than ever before. Since 2010 – under the Conservatives in Government – we have transformed the pension system, increasing the yearly rate of the basic state pension by over £2,000 and helping take 100,000 pensioners out of poverty. We will continue to ensure everyone has the financial security they deserve at every stage of their life.”