Yvonne Fovargue MP: Raising awareness of Pension Credit

I hope that the Government takes up the proposal by groups including Independent Age, Centre for Ageing Better, Age UK and National Pensioners Convention to establish a position of a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing (COPA) in England.
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However, I note that a Minister stated that the Government has no current plans to create such a role.

Over the past two years, pensioners have faced the impact of a cost-of-living crisis with food prices and energy bills increasing by levels not seen in a generation.

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In my view, these dramatic price rises show the importance of Pension Credit, which is intended to provide support for pensioners on very modest incomes.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.
Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.

I worry that the current Government is failing to encourage sufficient take-up of this important benefit.

The former Pensions Minister, speaking in October 2022, conceded that take up of Pension Credit has been too low.

Indeed, the Government’s own figures show that over a million pensioners who are entitled to it are not claiming it, with very serious consequences.

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This includes the non-payment of tens of millions of pounds-worth of support linked to Pension Credit such as a reduction on their heating bills through the Warm Homes Discount and a continued entitlement to a free TV licence, funded by the BBC, for those aged over 75.

In addition, I know that research from Loughborough University suggests that the failure to deliver Pension Credit to all those who are entitled to it is resulting in £4 billion a year of increased NHS and social care spending.

This highlights how the non take-up of Pension Credit can impose large additional costs elsewhere.

I believe it is wrong that so many pensioners on lower incomes are missing out on this vital financial help.

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I know that Ministers cite a £1.2m public awareness campaign, but it is still failing to achieve sufficient success.

I call on the Government to do much more to make people aware of Pension Credit and to encourage far greater take-up of it.

A clear action plan to do this is needed as quickly as possible. In a cost of living crisis, it is even more important that we protect customers and make sure they are getting the best value for money possible.

That is why I am pleased that a future Labour Government will take action to stop companies trapping customers in contracts they no longer want and put power back in customer’s hands.

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At present consumers only need to be informed about their continued subscription, not given a genuine choice.

This means they can end up trapped into contracts they no longer want or use.

Citizen’s Advice estimate that £306m per year is spent in the UK on unwanted subscriptions.

We will legislate to ensure that customers must ‘opt in’ to rather than ‘opt out’ of subscriptions that automatically renew.

All good businesses know the way to get customer loyalty is through good service and value for money, not through customers paying for products they don’t want.