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Money - Money
Last updated September 2021

Independent Age reveal pensioner poverty highest since 2012

Levels of pensioner poverty have crept back up to numbers not seen since 2012, according to latest analysis by national charity.

Figures released by the government show that while poverty in the overall population has remained relatively stable, since 2012, pensioner poverty has increased by 5%, with now almost a fifth of pensioners (18%) living in poverty after paying their housing costs in 2020.

This difference in trend suggests there are issues specific to the older age group in the UK and equates to an estimated 2.1 million pensioners now living in poverty. Of these, a shocking 1.1 million are living in severe poverty.

Additional findings show variations:

By age group:

  • People aged 85 and over have the highest rate of poverty among pensioners, at 22%. This has risen 6% since 2012.

In regions4:

  • Of all the regions in England, London is rising faster than any other and has by far the highest rate of pensioner poverty, at 25%. This has risen 7% since 2012 - 2014.
  • The North West is also a cause for concern. It has risen 6% (from 12% to 18%) since 2012 –2014.  This has taken it from having one of the lowest rates of poverty to the joint second highest.
  • The North East, which fell to a low of 10% in 2011 – 2013, has been steadily rising and has now gone up by 6% to 16%.

By gender and relationship status:

  • Poverty among older women appears to be rising at a slightly faster rate than among men, with a 4% rise of male pensioners living in poverty since 2012 (to 16%), and a 6% rise among female pensioners (to 20%).
  • For single female pensioners, poverty levels have risen from 17% in 2011 to 27% in 2020.
  • For single male pensioners, levels have risen from 14% in 2011 to 23% in 2020.

The charity says these rising figures could be drastically reduced if people receive the financial support they are entitled to via Pension Credit - extra money designed to help with living costs for people over State Pension age and on a low income.

As well as topping up people’s income, Pension Credit also acts as a gateway to other forms of support, including Housing Benefit, a free TV licence (for people over 75), free NHS prescriptions, council tax support and free eye tests. Combined, this could be worth around £7,000 per year for an individual.

Previous research commissioned by Independent Age found that maximising Pension Credit uptake and ensuring everyone entitled to it receives it, could lift roughly 3 in 10 pensioners out of poverty and reduce the number living in severe poverty by half.

However, it has the worst uptake of all income-related benefits and has not risen above 64% for almost a decade.

As part of its ‘Credit where it’s due’ campaign, Independent Age has been calling on the government to create an action plan to increase uptake since July 2019.

Earlier this month, the government backed a Pension Credit awareness day (16 June). The charity welcomes this as a positive step, but says awareness raising won't be enough by itself, as the scale of the issue demands more urgent and innovative action.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “These figures should be a huge red flag for the government. For the last ten years, pensioner poverty has been creeping back up, and this ticking timebomb cannot be ignored.”

Source: Independent Age