Socialist Worker

Einstein would find claim forms tough

The government's new pension credit system came into operation this week. John Johnston, a Socialist Worker reader and retired worker from Manchester, shows why the system won't abolish pensioner poverty

Issue No. 1872

THIS NEW system will lead to means testing for over 5 million pensioners.

But the government's target is that 73 percent of those eligible will be claiming the benefit by 2006.

It doesn't take an Einstein to work out that therefore 27 percent of eligible pensioners, some 1.5 million, will be robbed of their entitlement.

And everyone knows these take-up targets are often missed, and you wonder how many millions will not get what they should.

Unfortunately it does take an Einstein to understand what you are entitled to. The government says it will work this out for you-I wonder why I don't trust them!

Also pensioners will have to reveal every last penny of their income and savings, a demeaning process after a lifetime of work.

The legislation discriminates against women in two ways. The credit only applies from the age of 65.

Pardon me, but don't women presently retire at 60? The government is 'correcting' this situation. They are going to make women work until they are 65.

Secondly the legislation states that full pension credit entitlement applies only to those who have a complete national insurance contributions record. The majority of women will therefore lose out.

By the government's own admission, the administration costs of paying the pension credit are five times those of a universal payment such as the basic state pension.

If the link between earnings and the basic pension had not been broken in 1980, the state pension would now be £109 a week for a single pensioner and £174.80 for a couple.

In fact it is £77.45 for a single person and £123.80 for a couple.

I was on a protest of 300 angry pensioners in Warrington on Monday as the pension credit came into effect.

We were determined to keep up the fight for a non means tested pension, linked to earnings, and at a level which gives a decent standard of living.


Tories grab for the missing link

THE TORIES made a pitch for the pensioners' vote last week when they said they would restore the link between pensions and earnings.

And which evil party broke that link? Ah yes, the Conservatives!

The Tories do not propose to restore all the money they have robbed, only to raise future increases in line with earnings.

Labour's failure to restore the link, and its plans to force people to rely more on private pensions and means testing, have left the door open to the Tories to pose as the pensioners' friends.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, the president of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), says, 'The Tories' pledge has only come about as a result of the tireless campaigning of the NPC and others over the years.

'I hope the government will put this policy in their next manifesto. If they don't, some Labour MPs may well lose their seats.'


Neither the Tories nor Labour offer what is needed.

Each proposal is worse than the other, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

It says that, assuming 2.5 percent inflation and 4.5 percent average earnings increase, after four years the basic pension would have risen to £85.55 under Labour's plans and £92.40 under the Tories.

But taking the pension credit into account, total entitlement for those with small work pensions or savings would rise to £121.75 under Labour and £112.70 under the Tories.


Taking to the streets

PENSIONERS protested in London, Rotherham, Newcastle, Birmingham, Lincoln, Warrington and many other areas on Monday.

Some protests had chants not just against Blair, but also against Gordon Brown, the architect of the whole tax and pension credit regime.

There was also anger that billions were spent on war while pensioners get so little.

Pensions minister Malcolm Wicks got jeers and mocking laughter as he addressed the London marchers.

Lambeth Pensioners Action Group leader Gordon McLennan said the government was 'mollycoddling the rich and wealthy'.

For more on the pension credit and the agitation for decent pensions without means testing go to www.natpencon.org.uk


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News
Sat 11 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1872
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