Govt urged to act as pensioner poverty rates are 'on the rise'

Age UK has urged the government to set out a clear reform programme to end later-life poverty and ensure the state pension covers basic needs, after analysis revealed that progress made in reducing pensioner poverty over the past decade is being reversed.

The charity’s poverty report said that pensioner poverty rates were "on the rise", with 18 per cent of pensioners, around 2.1 million savers, now living below the breadline.

The issue was particularly prominent amongst women, as Age UK found that around one in five female pensioners, 1.25 million women, were living in poverty, representing an increase of six percentage points in the less than a decade.

Indeed, the charity noted that, despite the rise in women’s state pension age meaning that the number of female pensioners in the UK has fallen by around 800,000 since 2012/23, the number living in poverty has increased by around 260,000.

Single female pensioners were at much higher risk of facing poverty in retirement than single men or pensioner couples, at 27 per cent compared to 23 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Ethnic inequalities were also highlighted, with around one in three Black and Asian UK female pensioners living in poverty.

More broadly, the report found that Black and Asian communities were around twice as likely to be living in poverty as White pensioners, with 33 per cent of Asian pensioners and 30 per cent of Black pensioners living below the breadline, compared to 16 per cent of White pensioners.

Renters also faced more concerns, as the analysis showed that 38 per cent of private tenants and 36 per cent of social rented tenants living in poverty, compared to 14 per cent of homeowners.

In light of the findings, Age UK has urged the government to ensure that the state pension system provides an income, which, “at the very least, covers the cost of basic needs such as food, clothing and heating”.

It also highlighted the importance of the triple lock for those who rely heavily on the state pension, warning that these savers, as well as others in their 50s and early 60s, could end up receiving a “significantly lower state pension if its value is allowed to erode”.

Given this, it argued that whilst there may have been reasons to suspend the triple lock for one year, as announced by the government earlier this month, it is "vital that the triple lock is reactivated again in 2023", if there is to be "any hope" of reducing the level of pensioner poverty.

Age UK director, Caroline Abrahams, commented: “I think many will be shocked to see how many women pensioners are now living in poverty – 1.25 million, equivalent to one in five – a big cause for concern.

"It’s important to recognise too just how much greater the risk of poverty in later life is for women who are Black or Asian, compared to their White peers.

“The fact that as many as one in three are living below the breadline demonstrates a level of structural inequality in our society, linked to race, that should be a wake-up call for both national and local policymakers.

“It is essential that the government’s levelling-up agenda covers the issues facing older women. Stabilising social care and increasing both the quantity and quality of it on offer would make a big difference to many on low incomes.

“They are unlikely to gain from the Prime Minister’s proposed cap on catastrophic care costs because of having few if any assets to protect.

“When it comes to helping these older women to get the care and support they need the ball is very much in the Chancellor’s court: he has to give councils a generous settlement for care in his forthcoming Spending Review or these older women will be even further disadvantaged."

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