[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 9:30 am, 23rd February 2010

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He is quite right. Of course, by not claiming pension credit, those people become ineligible for other benefits, thus compounding the problem.

Age Concern Scotland describes as complex the system of calculations that a pensioner has to go through in order to work out their pension credit entitlement. The form to claim pension credit is 18 pages long. Once applicants have secured the guaranteed part of the pension credit, they become eligible for full help with housing and council tax-but to get it, they have to complete another form that is 40 pages long and takes three weeks to process. The Government's proposals to pilot the automatic payment of pension credit, set out in the Welfare Reform Act 2009, could begin to address the problem. Those proposals are important, and I hope that the Minister will say when secondary legislation will be introduced to allow the pilots to go ahead.

According to Age Concern and Help the Aged in Scotland, the DWP and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs already hold the information necessary for such a scheme to be implemented nationally. We should aim to provide those elderly people in most need with simple and accessible methods of claiming. The evidence that I have outlined shows that the Government are failing some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pensioners. The Government know that the state pension is too low, and they rely on benefits to provide pensioners with what the Government consider to be a minimum living income. It would be fairer to move away from this flawed system of benefits, and increase the pension to a decent level that would at least meet that minimum level of income.