Conservative Think Tank at Tory party conference-: Cut pensioner benefits ‘immediately’

Ministers should waste no time to make unpopular cuts to pensioner benefits, a think tank director has said.

Many of those hit by a cut to the winter fuel allowance might “not be around” at the next election, said Alex Wild of the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

And others would forget which party had done it, he added.

At the group’s meeting at the Conservative conference in Manchester, former defence secretary Liam Fox said spending cuts must be “for keeps”.

Mr Wild said the Tories could not wait until a year before the next election to make the necessary cuts to the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, the Christmas bonus and other pensioner benefits.

Mr Wild, who is research director of the think tank which campaigns for lower taxes and highlights examples of Government waste, said the cuts should be made “as soon as possible after an election for two reasons”.

“The first of which will sound a little bit morbid – some of the people… won’t be around to vote against you in the next election. So that’s just a practical point, and the other point is they might have forgotten by then.”

He added: “If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, ‘Oh I can’t remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I’m not quite sure.’

“So on a purely practical basis I would say do it immediately. That might be one of those things I regret saying in later life but that would be my practical advice to the government.”

Retirees who raid pensions will be blocked from state benefits

Retirees who purposefully exhaust their pension pots and fall back on the state will not be given means-tested benefits, the government has confirmed.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has clarified how it would deal with those who spend their pension and then expect the state to fund their retirement, which many were concerned would add extra pressure on taxpayers.

It has now confirmed that if someone spends or gives away their pension fund, the DWP will treat them as if they still have that pension fund when calculating entitlement to means-tested benefits. Individuals will have to tell DWP and their local authority, which pays out some benefits directly, that they have accessed their pension pots.

The DWP uses pension credit – which is used to top up the incomes of the poorest pensioners – to illustrate its point.

It said in a document: ‘Once you (or your partner) reach the qualifying age for pension credit, you are expected to use your pension(s) to help support yourself. If you choose not to buy an annuity after reaching the qualifying age for pension credit, an amount of ‘notional’ income will be taken into account when your benefit is worked out.

‘’Notional’ income (in this case) is an amount equivalent to the income you would have received if you had bought an annuity. If you take an income from your pension pot, the amount which will be taken into account when assessing your benefit will be the higher of the actual income or notional income. If you take a cash lump sum, this will be taken into account as capital.’

Andrew Tully, pensions technical director at MGM Advantage, said the DWP ‘could not be any clearer in how they will treat cases where people have either deliberately or unwittingly spending their pension pots and intend to fall back on means-tested benefits’.

‘We have a duty as an industry to make it very clear what the consequences of this are,’ he said. ‘But all of the responsibility rests with the individual to tell DWP and the local authority when they take money from a pension.

‘It seems clear to me people need to pause before raiding their pensions next month, and ensure they fully understand what the potential long-term consequences of doing so are.’

 

read the original article here: http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/pensions-and-sipps/retirees-who-raid-pensions-will-be-blocked-from-state-benefits/

Benefits axe ‘hits pensioners hard’

Social security cuts of more than £6 billion a year will hit pensioner families under the Government’s welfare reforms, a new report has claimed.

Research for the TUC showed that a quarter of all social security cuts between 2010 and 2016/17 will fall on families where at least one adult is above state pension age.

The union organisation said a large proportion of the losses were due to the Government’s decision to change the measure used to increase benefits every year from RPI inflation to the lower CPI measure.

Reductions in pensioner credit and disability benefits also accounted for the cuts, said the TUC.

The social security cuts faced by pensioner families are set to get worse after the election, warned the TUC, especially when Universal Credit is rolled out nationally from 2015, as almost half of the projected £5 billion a year of cuts that its introduction will bring will fall on pensioner families.

This will bring total losses to pensioner families up to £8.75 billion a year, said the TUC.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government want people to think that their welfare reforms have targeted so-called scroungers, while pensioners have been spared the pain. After all, the Prime Minister pledged to protect pensioner benefits during the last general election campaign. The reality, however, is very different.

“Pensioner families have had been hit hard by the Chancellor’s social security axe with their incomes set to be slashed by over £6 billion a year.

“For many pensioners the worst is yet to come. Universal Credit will make unemployed men and women in their mid-60s the new work-shy scroungers – unable to claim Pension Credit and suddenly subject to the Government’s sanctions regime.

OAP couple living on the streets after dispute over pension payments

AN ELDERLY couple are living rough on the streets of Bournemouth, prompting shocked reactions from charity workers.

The two pensioners were evicted from their privately-rented home in Charminster in April, and have been sleeping rough since then – relying on soup kitchens to eat – while an issue with their pension payments is resolved.

It is believed that after the pensions system changed, they were told they had to have their pensions paid electronically into a bank account. Because they were unable to carry on collecting their money in their usual way, they were unable to pay their rent.

According to Bournemouth Council, they have been offered emergency accommodation but have refused.

Bath-based charity volunteer Robin Richmond came across the couple, aged 84 and 75, on the seafront earlier this month while he was helping a local church get set up to assist local homeless people. He described the meeting as ‘an eye opener’. “They have helped people through voluntary organisations and it is a real pity that in their hour of need they have been left to live on the streets,” he said. At a time when people are so concerned about the misuse of benefits it appears that the system is radically failing a couple who, on the face of it, we should be honouring and not forgetting.”

 Bournemouth Borough Council’s strategic housing manager, Kelly Ansell, said: “The couple’s situation was recently assessed and they were offered emergency accommodation but this was refused. We would urge them to make further contact with the council’s housing team.”

Sarah Carroll, head of community services at Age UK Bournemouth, also urged the couple to get in touch. It shouldn’t really get to this point, it is quite outrageous,” she said. She said sometimes elderly people were reluctant to speak to social services due to pride, stubbornness or a desire not to be a burden. I understand a lot of people have tried to engage with them, clearly they can’t sort this out on their own.”

Bournemouth Town Centre Parish Team Rector Reverend Dr Ian Terry said: “I am shocked to hear this. Homelessness is a blight on our society – nobody should be without a home. It is particularly shocking to hear that they are such an elderly couple.”

He said he wasn’t surprised to hear that the council had offered practical assistance, but added: “What the sad example of this couple shows is that, although things are being done, they are not being done quickly enough, and there is a need for further action.”

The Daily Echo spoke to the couple, who said they would prefer to remain anonymous.

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/11337808.OAP_couple_living_on_the_streets/

Iian Duncan Smith extends his War on the Poor to include Poor Pensioners

Saturday’s Daily Telegraph contained an announcement from Iian Duncan Smith:

 

 Benefit cheats face higher fines and losing their homes.

Iain Duncan Smith hails £50 billion of welfare savings but ministers plan a new crackdown on benefit cheats after £3.5billion was lost to fraud and error ………………….

“Hundreds of thousands of pensioners who fail to declare their full earnings from private pension schemes will also be targeted as fraud investigators trawl through HM Revenue & Customs records. “………………………….

Existing claimants will be cross-checked against HMRC records to catch pensioners who are receiving extra income than they have declared from private schemes, while also claiming pension credit, a means-tested benefit…………………………………………………………..

Officials estimate that fraud by pensioners failing to declare their full income cost taxpayers £170 million last year, up from £140 million in 2012 and more than the £150 million lost to jobseeker’s allowance fraud by those falsely claiming to be out of work……………………………………………….

Officials expect to find 300,000 pensioners and workers who are claiming benefits to which they are not entitled because they have not declared their full income. The system will be tried out this month”

So the campaign to brand pensioners as shirkers and cheats gets under way.

Up till now public opinion has made an attack on pensioners impossible, here we go with the clever manipulation of the public to think of pensioners not as people who have paid into their pensions system all their lives, but as people scrounging from ‘hard earning taxpayers’

You can read the whole of his statement here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10747122/Benefit-cheats-face-higher-fines-and-losing-their-homes.html

 

Iain Duncan Smith targets poor pensioners with plans to scrap free bus passes and winter fuel allowance

Iain Duncan Smith tonight stepped up the Tory war on the poor by turning his sights on society’s most vulnerable.

The penny-pinching Work and Pensions Secretary wants to slash winter fuel allowances for pensioners and scrap their free bus passes and TV licences in a move that would spell misery for millions of people.

His cruel cuts could mean OAPs having to choose between heating their homes or eating as they lose up to £300 in cold weather payments.

And the over-75s would also have to fork out £145 for TV licences.

Mr Duncan Smith’s move finally destroyed any claim the party had to being caring Conservatives.

And it flies in the face of David Cameron’s election pledge to rule out cuts to pensioner ­benefits.

Mr Duncan Smith, whose flagship Universal Credit policy is in chaos, said the Government was discussing whether to put OAP payments into a wider Whitehall cap on welfare spending.

He revealed today: “We need maximum flexibility with the cap. Pretty much all existing ringfences will have to disappear.”

Shadow Chief ­Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “There are clearly major divisions within the Government over whether to cap pensioner benefits.

“One minute Downing Street are ruling it out and the next Iain Duncan Smith is ruling it in. It is time for the Government to come clean over what exactly they are going to do with pensioner benefits.”

Mr Duncan Smith’s move will also pile pressure on Mr Cameron to again rule out cuts to pensioner welfare.

The proposed spending cap was announced by George Osborne last year and will be formally set in the Budget later this year. At that time, the Chancellor will also set out which benefits will be included in it.

It will include most welfare payments – including housing benefit, tax credits and income support, Treasury sources said last night. But it will not include pensions or Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Exploding the Myths Around Benefit Levels and the European Committee of Social Rights

Wednesday saw Iain Duncan Smith expressing outrage about the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights on the UK’s recent report to that body.

Reacting to the Committee’s conclusion that the UK had not satisfied its European social security rights obligations, Mr Duncan Smith stated that it was ‘lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204bn in benefits and pensions last year alone.’

So what is the all the fuss about? Who is this Committee that has raised the hackles of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions? The European Committee of Social Right is a human rights monitoring body established under the European Social Charter. This is a treaty established by the Council of Europe, an inter-governmental organisation established in 1949 which promotes co-operation between all countries of Europe in the area of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It has 47 member states, one of which is the UK.

The Committee’s function is to make findings (or ‘conclusions’) on the conformity of the situation of all the countries that have volunteered to be bound by the European Social Charter (which the UK signed up to in 1962). The report that resulted in the findings that have so enraged Mr Duncan Smith was submitted by the UK in November 2012.

The Committee’s findings highlighted a number of problems with the UK’s welfare system in terms of the European Social Charter. Specifically, it found that the UK was not in conformity with its duty to establish or maintain a system of social security in terms of Article 12(1) of that instrument ‘on the grounds that: ‘the minimum level of short-term and long-term incapacity benefit is manifestly inadequate; the minimum level of state pension is manifestly inadequate; the minimum level of job seeker’s allowance is manifestly inadequate.’

The Committee did not pick these conclusions out of the air – rather, it based its findings on the fact that the benefits in question fall below 40% of the Eurostat median equivalised income. This is the same approach to that it adopts to assessing social security systems in all states that are bound by Article 12(1) the European Social Charter – including the Nordic countries, Germany and France. The information on benefits levels were provided by the UK in its report – it was not the product of a cunning European or civil society plot to shame the UK in front of its peers.

Nor did the Committee fail to acknowledge the extent to which the UK is in compliance with the Charter. It specifically stated that the UK was satisfying its obligations in relation to the right to safe and healthy working conditions, the right to protection of health, the right to social and medical assistance, the right to benefit from social welfare services and the right of elderly persons to social protection. Where the UK had not provided all the information that the Committee needed to fully evaluate compliance, it found the state to be in conformity pending receipt of the requested information. In other words, far from victimising the UK, where there was any doubt, the Committee operated on the basis of a presumption in favour of state compliance. The only area in which the UK’s performance was criticised is the one that has been seized on by Mr Duncan Smith and his party colleagues. In doing so, they provide an incomplete and distorted picture of the Committee’s findings.

What Wednesday’s story has done is to throw into sharp relief, the significant ignorance of some of our political representatives about human rights and Europe. Priti Patel, MP, is reported as having stated that, ‘the unaccountable and unelected Council of Europe has clearly failed to properly research and understand the system in Britain. This institution should instead focus its attention on other countries where there are serious problems rather than attempt to meddle in our country.’

n doing so, she appears to confuse the Committee and the Council of Europe and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the role of both. In this instance, the Committee has carried out its function in terms of the European Social Charter appropriately. The fact that this has resulted in conclusions that the coalition government do not like does not mean that the Committee (or indeed the Council of Europe) has in any way deviated from the role it is required to play. Nor does it suggest that the Committee is unilaterally attempting to ‘meddle’ in UK affairs.

Confusion about European bodies and human rights standards was also evident on the part of Philip Davies, MP, who said: ‘The Government can no longer stand by. They have got to say, “We’re sick to the back teeth of this interference, we’re going to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights”.’ Unfortunately for Mr Davies, the European Convention on Human Rights has absolutely nothing to do with yesterday’s finding by the Committee. It is an entirely different instrument to the European Social Charter.

Demonstrating a somewhat higher level of knowledge, Jacob Rees-Mogg stated that, ‘the UK has not signed the additional protocol providing for a system of collective complaints nor is the Charter applicable in domestic law. Therefore, the opinion it has expressed is of limited effect.’ Mr Rees-Mogg is correct that the UK has not signed the additional protocol – but it has undertaken reporting obligations on its progress on the rights. He is also correct that the Charter is not applicable in domestic law (and that therefore reports that the Committee’s findings potentially open the door for claimants to take the Government to court ‘to get more money’ are inaccurate) – but that does not mean it does not impose binding international law obligations. Strikingly, Mr Rees-Mogg’s statement that the Committee ‘overstates its case as the level of benefits is a matter of political debate not of being “manifestly inadequate”‘ demonstrates a failure to appreciate that simply because something is subject to political debate (and it is hard to find a human rights issue that is not!) does not mean that it is immune to consideration by human rights bodies such as the Committee.

The bad news for Mr Duncan Smith and others decrying the Committee’s conclusions is that it is certainly not being lunatic. UK welfare ‘reform’ raises a wide range of human rights concerns – whether in terms of international, European or domestic human rights law. This is simply the most recent example of an international human rights body criticising the impacts on the most vulnerable of changes to the UK’s social protection framework. It almost certainly won’t be the last.

by Professor Aiofe Nolan on thhe Huffingtomn Post, 30th Jan 2014: ww.huffingtonpost.co.uk/professor-aoife-nolan/welfare-reform-social-rights_b_4692742.html