Mhairi Black MP: Today's Pension Credit cut pushes millions of older people further into poverty
The Tories’ cruel attack on our pensioners steps up a gear today as the pension credit cut comes into force. They simply cannot be trusted to look after our pensioners, says Mhairi Black MP.
The Tories’ cruel attack on our pensioners steps up a gear today as the pension credit cut comes into force. This cut is the latest in a series of harmful austerity policies brought in by this Tory government that will leave some of the poorest older people in society up to £7,000 a year worse off.
Until today, couples in which one person is of State Pension Age and the other person is not were able to claim Pension Credit to bridge the financial gap. Now they are being forced to claim Universal Credit, which will mean they get less and leave them financially worse-off. These people are essentially being punished for being with someone younger than themselves.
The policy passed through parliament in 2012 but is only now coming into force, and the Tories have done this without any further parliamentary scrutiny. It is ridiculous to bring in a policy that was passed 7 years ago without further parliamentary debate.
My SNP colleagues and I have repeatedly urged the UK government to put the change to a fresh vote and they have repeatedly refused. The gross hypocrisy from the Tories is astonishing given Theresa May has forced the Commons to vote three times in less than six months on her doomed Brexit deal.
This pension credit cut is just one in a long list of Tory austerity policies that are leaving millions of older people worse off and pushing them further into poverty.
This Tory government already presides over the lowest state pension in the developed world – and to add insult to injury, is accelerating a rise in the state pension age at a worrying pace, despite the vast demographic challenges and inequalities that still exist across the UK.
Women born in the 1950s in the UK were dealt a double whammy by this UK government when it decided to increase their state pension age with little to no notice, leaving them unable to prepare for such a change and therefore financially worse off.
The Tories have also broken their manifesto commitment to protect free TV licences for over 75s and threatened to scrap the triple-lock, means test the Winter Fuel Allowance and implement a callous ‘dementia tax’ before doing a U-turn after a public outcry.
All of this is happening against the backdrop of a spike in pensioner poverty – it is now at its worst since 2008 – Brexit uncertainty, and a four-year benefit freeze. As rent goes up faster than housing benefit, the 20 per cent of pensioners who rent their home are having to find the money to bridge this gap.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also said that 300,000 more pensioners have been driven into poverty between 2014 and 2017, which is the first sustained increase in pensioner poverty for 20 years.
It becomes clearer by the day that the Tories simply cannot be trusted to look after our pensioners. The only sure way to tackle pensioner poverty and allow our older people across Scotland to live with the dignity and respect they deserve is with the full powers of independence.
Mhairi Black is SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.