UK state pension 'is worst in developed world' - Triple lock concerns as poverty rises

Millions of retirees in the UK are living in poverty, with new analysis showing 2.1 million pensioners are now living below the breadline – of which 1.25 million are female. Despite the rise in the state pension age for women, which has meant the number of female pensioners in the UK has fallen by 800,000 since 2012/13, the number living in poverty has surged by around 260,000 – from 990,000.

The findings come as MPs are set to debate the suspension of the state pension triple lock in Parliament today. Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices, said the “sobering research” should force a “rethink” on the decision to remove the earnings element of the triple lock this year.

“Our state pension is the worst in the developed world and millions of women were plunged into poverty by the raising of the state pension age with insufficient notice,” he said. “£137-60 per week can’t buy life’s essentials, let alone cope with any household emergencies, and we urge MPs of all parties to vote against the scrapping of the triple lock in Parliament.”

State pension payments usually rise each year by whichever is the highest out of earnings, inflation and 2.5 percent, however the Government intends to suspend the earnings element of the triple lock this year, due to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the figure.

Jan Shortt, National Pensioners Convention (NPC) General Secretary, also raised concerns about rising pensioner poverty, at the same time as the state pension “falling behind in real terms every year”.

READ MORE: Universal Credit, PIP & state pension recipients set for bonus in December 2021

© GETTY State pension UK: Person looking at money

“The current debate on the ‘exceptional’ circumstances created by the pandemic should not be taken in isolation from other attacks on pensioner income, such as the rise in food and fuel costs, and the loss of the free TV licence for over 75s,” she said.

“Nor should it ignore the facts about the affordability and impact of any changes to the pension system.”

“There may have been reason to suspend it for one year, because of the distortions caused by the pandemic, but if we’re to have any hope of reducing the level of pensioner poverty in our society the triple lock must come back into force again in 12 months time.”

Florence, 76, is among those struggling to get by. She began working with a Saturday job at the age of 12, and worked two or more jobs at the same time for most of her adult life. “I have to budget very carefully for every bill,” she said.

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“I don’t expect to be ‘rewarded’ for working – it is something we were always brought up to do but I did imagine I would have enough money to live on, which the current pension certainly isn’t.

“I saved all my life thinking I would have enough money to eke out my pension when necessary, but savings were spent on necessities after retirement and have long-since vanished.”

Another retiree who experiences difficulties in making ends meet is Krishnasamy. “I am 76 years old and disabled, my wife is 70 and also disabled. We worked hard all our lives to have a good last few years but to no avail.

The pensioner added: “I just got my new council tax demand, that’s gone up, the energy suppliers are just as bad, why must it go up, how are we supposed to meet all these hefty increases? Cut back by having one meal a day plus dry bread plus maybe a cup of tea once a day.”

© GETTY / EXPRESS State pension UK guide

Ms Shortt added: “The Age UK findings on the scale of poverty among women pensioners are both shocking and tragically unsurprising. Women pensioners have been particularly hard hit over the years.

“Their poor pensions are often the result of working in low-income jobs, or taking time out of employment to raise children, which meant their pension and National Insurance contributions were low or even nil.

“Those retiring in the last decade have also been forced to work beyond their planned retirement age of 60, after the government increased the qualifying age to 65, and then 66 – which is why we believe there should not be any further increase in the state pension age.

“Remember, for every person who does not retire, because they are in the group to which the age increase applies, the government is raking in around £18-21,000 in extra tax, NI and savings on pension payouts.

“The NPC believes that any change to the triple lock – even a one year suspension – will force even more women, and male, pensioners into poverty. We are calling on MPs on all sides to oppose the government’s Bill to move to a double lock.”

The charity urging anyone who is worried about money, or who may be entitled to claim benefits, to get in touch via the free Age UK Advice line on 0800 169 65 65 (8am-7pm), to visit www.ageuk.org.uk/money, or contact their local Age UK for free information and advice.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to action that helps to alleviate levels of pensioner poverty.

“Our ground-breaking pension reforms, including automatic enrolment, have helped millions more women save into a pension, many for the first time.

“Pension participation among eligible women working in the private sector has risen from 40 percent in 2012, to 86 percent in 2019.

“Last year there were 200,000 fewer pensioners in absolute poverty than a decade ago and we expect to spend more than £125 billion on benefits for pensioners in 2020/21.”

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