Does Boris Johnson have something against pensioners? That’s a question I have asked all too often these days, especially since Dominic Cummings revealed that the PM wasn’t too bothered when he thought Covid was only killing the over 80s.
Last week, free TV licences for over 75s ceased. It marked the end of a 20-year concession introduced by Labour’s Gordon Brown, covering 4.5m pensioners, and part of a series, like winter fuel allowances; free bus passes and Pension Credit, all designed to improve the lot of pensioners.
Those on Pension Credit are still entitled to a TV licence but about 1.3 million people don’t claim it, either because they don’t know about it or fear the stigma of means testing. The Government continues to resist calls for a take up campaign.
Some now worry that, despite the levelling up rhetoric, pensioners look more like a group where levelling down is becoming the order of the day.
Last month the Parliamentary Ombudsman ruled that the DWP were guilty of maladministration in failing to adequately inform women, born in the 1950s, that their state pension age would increase, thus depriving 3.8 million women of the pension they expected at age 65. So far, the Secretary of State has done nothing.
The Government’s also been forced to investigate cases of women who retired before 2016 on small state pensions but were entitled to uplifts based on their husband’s contributions and never received them. This scandal could cost up to £3 billion and involve thousands of women. It’s thought similar claims are possible from women who were divorced or widowed but the Government is currently refusing calls to investigate the plight of such women.
These are not encouraging signs when it comes to the Government’s attitude towards pensioners. There are now suggestions that the Chancellor is having second thoughts about honouring the pension triple lock which guarantees uprating.
It might be expensive this year but it’s a manifesto commitment.
Many of the country’s 8.5 million pensioners voted, in good faith, for Johnson because of that commitment. Will they be proved wrong?