Access to Pension Credit

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:25 pm on 24th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:25 pm, 24th July 2019

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The point that I will make later in my speech is that there seems to be this assumption that increasing publicity does not necessarily work or that trying to get cross-benefits, for example around housing benefit, would not solve the problem. However, his intervention shows that where Members of Parliament are proactive—arguably, the Government could be proactive instead—they can gain more support for their constituents. I pay tribute to him for doing that already; perhaps the Government could follow his lead.

Over the last few weeks, I have been working closely with the older people’s charity Independent Age, which has put forward some sensible recommendations that could help us to improve this situation. Indeed, its “Credit Where It’s Due” campaign has already made waves across the country, and I am proud to support it in its entirety.

Working with sector stakeholders and with all levels of Government, it is essential that the Government act to ensure that everyone who is entitled to pension credit receives it. To achieve this, I impress upon the Minister the need for him to make three clear commitments today. The first is to ensure that at least 75% of eligible people receive pension credit by the end of 2020. The second is to ensure that that figure is at least 95% by the end of 2022. The third is to ensure that it is 100% by 2025.

Independent Age estimates that if measures are put in place to achieve a 75% take-up target by 2020, half a million pensioners could be lifted out of poverty by putting an additional £1.25 billion into the pockets of our poorest pensioners. To reach those targets, the Government must put in place a comprehensive action plan that is ambitious about the full range of improvements that can be—indeed, need to be—made. Simply continuing previous approaches, such as focusing merely on new awareness-raising campaigns, will not allow us to make the progress on this issue that is desperately needed.

Of course, the voluntary sector plays a vital role in supporting older people to access pension credit, but such support cannot be relied upon to improve uptake across the country if used in isolation.