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Dispelling the myths

What they said…

“But if you're going to make further welfare savings, which I am prepared to look at, then you've got to start at the top, you've got to start with welfare for the wealthy, benefits paid to the rich and the retired.

“And, that’s why I think it is right to say that millionaire pensioners, for instance, don’t need winter fuel payments and free TV licences, because they can afford them perfectly well themselves.”

Nick Clegg (Lib Dem)

MYTH #1: All pensioners are wealthy

Mr Clegg carelessly groups ‘the retired’ with ‘the wealthy’ and ‘the rich’ without much thought given to the fact that the UK is ranked fourth out of 27 EU countries in relation to the risk of poverty amongst older people.

MYTH #2: Millionaire pensioners are the norm

There are around 11m pensioners living in the UK, with less than 0.01% of these having an annual income of £1m or more, and less than 0.3% that have liquid assets of more than £1m.  The bureaucracy required to take payments away from millionaire pensioners is likely to cost more than it would save. 

What they said…

“When it comes to pensioner benefits, our society is getting older; we're going to be spending more on older people. I want to make sure that's sustainable.

“All those other pensioner benefits – yes, of course we've got to look at how we can afford them, we will have to consider the promises we make for the next parliament.”

George Osborne (Con)

MYTH #3: An ageing population is a burden

Whilst the overall cost to the Exchequer (providing pensions, age-related welfare payments and health services) was found to be £136.2bn, the revenues from older people (financial or otherwise) added up to a staggering £175.8bn. The overall net contribution by older people to the economy was therefore almost £40bn a year.  Does that sound like a burdensome generation to you?

What they said…

“In tough economic times we have to make difficult choices about priorities for public spending and what the right balance is between universal and targeted support. So at a time when the public services that pensioners and others rely on are under strain, it can no longer be a priority to continue paying the winter fuel allowance to the wealthiest pensioners.”

Ed Balls (Lab)

MYTH #4: Targeted support will help the neediest

Between £3.7 and £5.5 billion of means-tested benefits that should rightfully go to older people in GB went unclaimed in 2009-10.  Means testing does not work, and results in the most vulnerable being worse off.

MYTH #5: Older people have escaped the austerity measures

The Winter Fuel Payment has been reduced and the qualifying age raised; pensions have been indexed to a lower measure of inflation (CPI); the increase in the state pension age for women has been brought forward; and the so-called ‘granny tax’ has meant four million pensioners over 65 have had their personal tax allowances frozen, saving the government £1bn by 2015.