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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.

“Poor pensioners with no private income will also lose out as a result of the Chancellor’s stealth cut in the uprating of vital benefits such as the state pension.

“The Government’s welfare reforms are undermining the extra support we need when we have children or retire, and the safety net we rely upon if we lose our job or become ill. It is time to stand up for the social security system that we all pay into and will all need at some point in our lives.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Many pensioners are struggling to keep their heads above water and the formula used for uprating state pensions and benefits makes a big difference. Age UK strongly supports the triple lock which gives people the security of knowing that their basic pension will go up over time. However low earnings growth in the past few years and the government’s decision to switch from using RPI to CPI have undoubtedly had a detrimental impact on the overall value of the state pension and benefits.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our older people have worked hard and paid into the system all their lives. That is why this Government has protected key support for pensioners including winter fuel payments, free prescriptions, free eye tests and bus passes and free TV licenses for the over-75s.

“Furthermore, the ‘triple lock’ guarantee has given today’s pensioners a basic state pension which is a higher share of average earnings than at any time since 1992 and will make 12.7 million people better off by over £400 a year by the end of this Parliament.

“Contrary to what the TUC is saying, our reforms – with the introduction of the flat-rate pension – are designed to simplify the system to make it easier for pensioners to get the support they need.”

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