As the Government puts the finishing touches to the Comprehensive Spending Review the latest and largest opinion survey of Britain's over 50s reveals how they feel about possible cuts to their benefits.
The UK state pension is already the lowest in the developed world and the Coalition must tread carefully when deciding its spending priorities.
The survey shows that that the most valued benefits were winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free eye tests. Sixty per cent said they would be angry if Winter Fuel Allowances were abolished, whilst 63% say free eye tests were important to them. Free bus passes were seen by women to be a more important benefit than men with 56% of women saying a free bus pass was important compared with 47% of men. These benefits are clearly valued by older people and they want them retained.
However, if the Chancellor is looking for benefits to which people are less attached then he could look at free TV licences and the Pensioners’ Christmas bonus. The fact is that 75% do not believe the Christmas bonus is important (55% saying it's not important and 20% who do not mind either way) and 66% do not believe free TV licences are important to them (46% not important and 20% do not feel strongly either way).
Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga said: “Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg made pledges to protect older people’s benefits during the General Election. We expect them to protect the most vulnerable in society and also take account of the things that older people most value. The Winter Fuel Allowance, free eye tests and bus passes are their line in the sand. Once roused older voters may not riot in the streets – but they do vote and they don't forget.
The Saga Populus Panel of 10,300 people age 50 and over, which concluded on 18thOctober, asked people to rank how important they viewed (from very important, important, neither, not very important, not at all important) the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, free TV licences, free eye tests and the pensioners’ Christmas bonus.
For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529