Tackling pensioner poverty continues to be one of this Government's key priorities.
The Government have introduced a number of measures to help older people out of poverty. In 1997, the poorest pensioners lived on around £69 a week, today pension credit ensures that no-one needs to live on less than £124.05 a week (£189.35 for a couple). We have successively raised the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit at least in line with earnings in every year since its introduction, and the value of the safety-net we provide for the poorest pensioners has increased by over a third in real terms since 1997.
We have made good progress in tackling pensioner poverty. Between 1998-99 and 2006-07 the number of pensioners in low income in the UK has fallen from 2.9 million to 2.1 million (measured by 60 per cent. of contemporary median income after housing costs.)
Our commitments in the Pensions Act 2007 to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee at least in line with earnings over the long term, and to reintroduce the earnings link to basic state pension from 2012, or by the end of the next Parliament, will help secure the gains we have made into the future.
We will continue to strive to ensure that older people are aware of, and take up their entitlements through initiatives such as: using sophisticated data matching to identify those who may be entitled to, but not currently receiving, benefits; home visits for vulnerable customers; local and national advertising and media campaigns; a simple and straight-forward claim process; and ever closer working with partner organisations.
In addition to pension credit we have increased winter fuel payments to £200 for households with someone aged 60-79, and £300 for those with someone aged 80 or over. We will be making an additional payment for winter 2008-09 of £50 for households with someone aged 60 to 79 and £100 for those with someone aged 80 or over. Since 1997, we have also introduced free eye-tests, free off-peak bus travel for pensioners and free television licences for over 75s.