Ditch pensioner perks and spend money on young people instead, ministers urged

Posted On: 
25th April 2019

Ministers have been urged to ditch pensioner perks including free bus passes and TV licenses in favour of higher public spending on the issues affecting young people.

The call came in a new report by the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness
Credit: 
PA

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness said the Government needed to "get a grip" and redress an imbalance in state help between older and younger people - or risk a breakdown in trust between the generations.

In a new report, the group of peers called on the Government to axe a string of state handouts for the over-75s and do more to tackle Britain's mounting housing crisis and skills gap.

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They urged ministers to consider scrapping free TV licenses for the over-75s - introduced under Labour in 2001 - and said the Government should instead switch to a means-tested system based on income.

The committee also called for the so-called "triple lock" on pensions, brought in under the Coalition government to guarantee a minimum increase in the state pension each year, to be ditched in favour of a less-generous pledge to increase pensions in line with average earnings.

And the group of peers also called for free bus passes and the annual Winter Fuel Payment, designed to help all older people with travel and heating costs when they reach state pension age, to be drastically scaled back.

At the same time, they called for more action to give young people a leg-up, including freeing up councils to build more houses, compelling landlords to offer "long term secure" tenancies and substantially boost funding for further education and apprenticeships.

The peers are also demanding that the Government does more to ensure young people don't fall prey to "exploitation or insecurity" amid the rise of the so-called gig economy, which has seen firms like Uber and Deliveroo come under scrutiny for their stance on employment rights.

Committee chair Lord True said: "We found that intergenerational bonds are still strong, and the evidence suggested both young and older people recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.

"However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the Government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits."

The report has already been welcomed by Frank Field, the independent MP who chairs the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

"The Select Committee has hit the bull’s eye," he said.

"If the next wave of welfare reform is to stand any chance of advancing the common good, it must quickly put right the injustices in both the housing and labour markets that have served to torpedo younger people’s living standards in recent years.

"As the Select Committee notes, any such efforts to rescue younger generations from their current plight must also be guided by robust official data on the distribution of wealth, income, and opportunities in our country. Will the Government now seize this report and use it to forge a new contract with younger people?"

But Anna Dixon of the Centre for Better Ageing charitable foundation said: "Headline grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licenses based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities."