Ros Altmann, Director- General of Saga, comments on calls to means-test pensioner benefits:
"If you start means-testing pensioner benefits, many of those who need help will not get it, as they won't claim, it will cost huge sums in administration and you will be penalizing those who have saved. The reason we have all these pensioner benefits is because our state pension is so low for so many people. Nearly half of pensioners are already eligible for means-testing, although many won't claim and around half have incomes of less than £10,000 a year.
The current pension system needs reform and we need less means-testing for older people, not more. Means-testing is complex, inefficient and costly in terms of administration and penalises those who have saved, whereas universal benefits for pensioners ensure all those who need them do receive what they should.
"Our research also shows that 87% of pensioners feel their bus passes are vitally important and 90% said the same about their winter fuel allowance. Also, more generally, two thirds of all those over 50 think that retaining universal pensioner benefits is a fair policy.
"Of course, in theory, it makes little sense to pay money to wealthy pensioners who do not really need it, but then will the next step be to say that they don't need the rest of their state pension either? It would make far more sense to tax pensioner benefits, or even to increase the age at which eligibility starts, or to only allow free travel at off-peak times, but we urge the Government not to listen to the calls for more means-testing, which will put people off saving for retirement and will also leave many poorer pensioners without the help they require."