Caring for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [16th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 15th July 2009.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:49 pm, 15th July 2009

It was certainly one of the many factors.

Twelve years of a Labour Government committed to helping the poorest and most vulnerable has seen 900,000 older people lifted out of relative poverty, each one with enhanced life chances that should be celebrated rather than dismissed by the Conservatives. Thanks to increases in the basic pension and pension credit this year, no pensioner need live on less than £130 a week. Since 1997, this Government have spent about £100 billion more than if we had maintained the policies that we inherited from the Conservatives, and £13 billion of that extra spending is happening in this financial year, despite the economic challenges that we face. As a recent European Union report underlines, there has been a significant change in the income of the over-65s in the UK. In 1997, it was 15 per cent. below the EU average: that is the Conservative record. After 12 years of Labour government, it has risen to 9 per cent. above the average.

We continue our efforts to increase the take-up of pension credit, a benefit that did not even exist when the Conservative party was last in power. Since October 2008, it has been easier to claim, with claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit being made over the phone and pension credit being directly forwarded to the local authority without the need for a signed claim form. We continue to press ahead with targeted take-up campaigns, working with groups such as the Royal British Legion and the Market Traders Association to drive up pensioner claiming.