Pensioner Poverty

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at on 13 May 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent estimate he has made of the number of pensioners in poverty.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Poverty among pensioners has remained stable, with no statistically significant changes since 2022-23. The number of pensioners with relative low income decreased by 1% in 2023 to 16%, and since 2010, over 200,000 pensioners have been lifted out of poverty.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

My inbox is full of constituents who are sick of the economic chaos inflicted by this Government and by the former Prime Minister, Elizabeth Truss. Can the Minister explain why the number of elderly individuals resorting to food banks has doubled in the past year to nearly 100,000? Are the people of Bury South wrong, and if they are, what is the reason why so many elderly residents cannot afford to eat in this country?

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

In 2023, 1% of low-income pensioners lived in a household that had accessed a food bank within 12 months. That percentage is unchanged from the previous year’s figures. I recognise the effort that people put into supplying their Front Benchers and Back Benchers with zinger points to make, but when I was in that role 25 years ago, I learned to make sure I had worked out what the Government’s answer might actually be.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I am sure that the shadow Secretary of State is making a good recovery—she is probably watching us even now, in between her physiotherapy.

Is it not the case that on this Government’s watch, food bank usage has doubled for pensioners, and over 2 million pensioners—nearly one in five—are now living in poverty? That figure is not stable; it is rising, so what is the Minister going to do about it?

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Of course, I also pass on my good wishes to the shadow Secretary of State, who I hope is recovering well.

Just as I gave Christian Wakeford some advice, I can now give some advice to Labour Front Benchers: always listen to the answer the Minister has just given. I will repeat it: in 2023, 1% of low-income pensioners lived in a household that had accessed a food bank within 12 months. That percentage is unchanged from last year’s figures.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

But 2 million pensioners are in poverty. Labour got far more pensioners out of poverty than the Minister’s Government have, and the number of pensioners in poverty is now rising: it was 1.6 million when the Conservatives came into office, and it is now 2.1 million, so there are more pensioners in poverty. Despite the Minister’s bluster, the Government’s own statistics show that well over a third of pensioners entitled to pension credit are not receiving it, which saves his Department almost £3 billion a year. Even when pensioners do apply, the Minister’s Department is missing its own 10-week service standard for processing new claims in nearly a quarter of all cases. Why is his Department so reluctant to ensure that pensioners are receiving the benefits they are entitled to?

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Government are putting an enormous amount of effort into improving the uptake of pension credit. The number of claims received in financial year 2022-23 was more than 80% higher than in the same period the year before, and the recent case load is going up for the first time in over a decade. We have given cost of living payments to pensioners on pension credit—we have given pensioners extra money on top of their winter fuel allowance and cold weather payments. The reality is that no Government have supported the pensioner population more than this Government have. As we all know, Labour is the party of 75p pension increases; no pensioner will ever forget that.