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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:50 am on 23rd February 2010.

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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 10:50 am, 23rd February 2010

Off the top of my head, it is several billion, which is why we are spending time on take-up campaigns, focusing particularly on those areas that we think have the lowest take-up. We have developed what is clumsily known as the automaticity pilot, which pilots data matching. That will enable us to pay pension credit, at least for a period, to people who are entitled to it and then invite them to claim once they have realised how effective it is for them.

Evidence shows that peer endorsement, in other words pensioners who have successfully claimed pension credit and endorsed it to their peers, is the most successful way of getting the pension credit claim rate up. We make 13,000 visits a week to the homes of vulnerable pensioners to assist them to claim. There is now a claim process whereby pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit can all be claimed with one phone call, which makes the process as simple as possible. We are pressing forward with those different methods of making benefits available and making the process of claiming easy and user-friendly for pensioners.

Mr. Waterson asked about renaming the council tax benefit a rebate. We are anxious to get on with the process as quickly as we can, but I hope that he acknowledges that there are 380 local authorities administering council tax and housing benefit-perhaps we would all rather have seen it nationalised, rather than administered at the current level. Many local authorities have different IT systems; we have been in touch with IT suppliers to see if we can ease the shift from a council tax benefit to a rebate, and are in discussions with software and IT suppliers, as well as local authority administrators, on the practical issues raised by that shift. We remain committed to doing it as quickly as possible. I hope that that reassures him.

On fuel poverty, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire commented, mainly I think, on the Scottish system. The English system is slightly different; if people own or rent their home, are 60 or over and claim pension credit, they can be eligible for up to £3,000 help with upgrading their heating, or £6,000 if they use heating oil. I advise her to take up the issue of irretrievable breakdown with the Scottish Executive and the authorities there, rather than bringing the issues here.

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Jane Birkby
Posted on 25 Feb 2010 12:00 am (Report this annotation)

Angela Eagle is typical of the encumbent government, in that at every opportunity she crows about what her party has done.
This is a real turn off for the electorate, because what they really want to hear, are concrete proposals to tackle the many problems, and scrap the intrusive communistic application forms, which put people off claiming.
I am 62, was born here, paid my taxes here, paid into a works pension here, yet when I try to get financial help, I am told my works pension excludes me from any real help, and I don't qualify for pension credit.
I don't consider my works pension to be a great deal at £250 pm, it doesn't even pay my rent for a month. So why am I being penalised and made to jump through hoops. I am very angry.
This government give people something, and take something else away, and we never seem to gain from anything, to have a decent stressfree life.