Pension Credit Cut

Bill Kidd MSP Portfolio Questions 1

Bill Kidd, SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland, hits out against cuts to pensioners’ income hidden by the Tories behind Brexit fanfare. Bill Kidd MSP called out the UK Government’s use of Brexit to cover up additional cuts to income penalising mixed-aged pensioner couples. Initially announced in the 14th January week of Brexit votes, following on from the spectacle leading up to Christmas, the UK Government sneaked in a significant cut to pensioner’s income amidst the clamour and fanfare of Brexit headlines. The change means that from the 15th May new pensioners with younger partners (under the age of 65) will no longer be able to apply for Pensioner’s Credit. Instead, they will have to apply for Universal Credit. Affected households will each loose up to £7,320 per year until their partner reaches the age of 65.  Last week SPICe- an independent parliamentary research centre- found that 10% of Scottish pensioner households claiming pensioner credit are likely to be affected by the change. 15,000 couples across the UK are expected to be hit by this change in this year alone.Bill Kidd MSP has emphasized, “Food bank use is on the rise and the Tories have finally admitted that their crippling scheme of Universal Credit is to blame. This system is an unacceptable and cruel prioritisation of the richest above the poorest. Using Brexit to sneak in this additional universal credit cut hits another low point for the Tories. I, along with my SNP colleagues here in the Scottish Parliament and in Westminster, will not stop speaking out for our constituents. We want a system which is fair and does not penalise the poorest in Scotland.” Universal Credit was rolled out in into the Anniesland constituency area on 5th December 2018.

On Tuesday [27 February], Bill Kidd MSP once again brought Universal Credit to the attention of the Scottish Parliament by asking Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People for the Scottish Government’s response to this unfair change. In response, the Cabinet Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville noted that she has written to the UK Government to raise serious concerns about this and went on to say: “The families that are affected will find themselves much worse off than they would have anticipated. Those who are no longer entitled to claim Pensioner’s Credit will be forced to claim Universal Credit, which is of course much less generous for couples. We know already that Universal Credit is causing problems… Universal Credit’s introduction has led to an increase in rent arrears and forced people into hardship. That is something which the Secretary of State has admitted in the last couple of weeks.”

The average age gap between couples is 2.6 years. The period a pensioner will have to wait until their younger partner reaches pensioner age (which will increase to 66 for both men and women in 2020) means that some pensioners could be £19,000 worse off due to this change.

Universal Credit has been widely criticized. From the two-child limit and the rape clause to the 12- week delays in receiving a first payment, charities and politicians across the country have been consistently calling for a halt to the new programme. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, toured the UK last October. He found fundamental flaws in the system that need to be addressed. In a statement he said: many aspects of the design and rollout of the programme [Universal Credit] have suggested that the DWP is more concerned with making economic savings and sending messages about lifestyles than responding to the multiple needs of those living with a disability, job loss, housing insecurity, illness and the demands of parenting... An increasing body of research makes clear that there are far too many instances in which Universal Credit is being implemented in ways that negatively impact many claimants' mental health, finances, and work prospects.” Emphasizing that the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, containing many areas of immense wealth, Alston continued, “it seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty.”

14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty in the UK.

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