Press release


Tuesday 8 January 2013

As Iain Duncan Smith defends Cameron’s pledge to keep Universal Benefits for pensioners but hints at changes beyond 2015, Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, comments:


"We have been very pleased with David Cameron's commitment to retaining universal benefits for all pensioners as we strongly oppose any move to more means-testing of older people. Means-testing leaves out many people who need money but do not claim and it is complex, inefficient and costly in terms of administration.  Worse still, it penalises those who have saved, whereas universal benefits for pensioners are straight forward and ensure all those who need them do receive what they should.

“The reason we have these benefits is to supplement our incredibly low Basic State Pension and so any move to take money away is equivalent to cutting the state pension. 

"Iain Duncan Smith is right to say that pensioners need more warning of changes that impact their finances, as they are often living on fixed or dwindling incomes and, once they have retired, they cannot make up their income losses. Any changes also need careful planning to make sure we are encouraging people to save for their retirement.  Taxing these pensioner benefits would raise extra revenue and be fairer, or changing the age of entitlement, or increasing the state pension to include the payments rather than paying as separate sums, but just sweeping them away from the majority of pensioners would leave many at risk. 

“It is true that some of those who receive payments don't need the money, but that is the case for the state pension as well.  Would the next step be to say highest income pensioners should not get a state pension either?  We must not attack pensioner incomes without a comprehensive assessment of the whole system which should form part of long-term reforms.''