MEANS TESTING PENSIONER BENEFITS WILL PUNISH SAVERS AND IS PENALISING PRIVATE PENSIONSWednesday 26 September 2012
Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, comments on Nick Clegg's suggestion to means-test pensioner benefits:
MEANS TESTING PENSIONER BENEFITS WILL PUNISH SAVERS AND IS PENALISING PRIVATE PENSIONS
"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. 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.
"While the principle of not giving benefits to wealthy pensioners who don't need it may make sense, the vast majority of pensioners are not on high incomes. The average net income for all single pensioners is just £11,630 and for pensioner couples is £20,765 a year. The top 20% of single pensioners have an average income of just over £20,000 a year. In these difficult times, it is understandable that people want to find targets to take money from. But extending means-testing for pensioners would be a move in the wrong direction.
''And where would this reducing pensioner incomes stop? Perhaps you could just as easily argue that they don't need a state pension either completely discouraging saving. It would make far more sense to consider taxing pensioner benefits, or increasing the age at which eligibility starts, or to only allow free travel at off-peak times.
''Nick Clegg's hint that a Liberal Democrat Government would introduce more means-testing, will put people off saving for retirement and will also leave many poorer pensioners without the help they require."
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