The Chancellor’s budget announcement that he would remove the personal independence payment (PIP) for people with disabilities (mental as well as physical) has sparked the generations’ war again. The Chancellor’s argument is that £billions must be found to reduce the national debt, which according to the 2016 National Debt Clock is growing at a rate of £5,170 per second. Mr Osborn’s announcement caused a furore and the resignation of a senior minister, and ended with the retrenchment of the decision. PIP popped back in quite quickly.
Ominously, once again there have been calls to reduce benefits to the elderly to pay for those for the young: ‘cut pensions’ is the theme. But those advocators, (most of whom are under 60) seem to ignore a few salient facts. The older people whose pensions they would like to cut are those who have paid into State funds all their working lives: they were the ones who set up the welfare state in the first place. They also supported generations older than themselves for decades, and the conditions they experienced when they were young were much more limiting than those of today’s younger generation.
Interestingly, the criteria you have to meet for claiming PIP (see the Citizen’s Advice website) is almost the same as those for older people applying for care in their own homes. But 900,000 are facing catastrophe because although they meet all the criteria, the social funds aren’t there to provide it. Many may have already been overtaken, according to expert comments on the sharp rise in death rates of people over the age of 65. 2015 saw the biggest annual rise in elderly deaths for almost fifty years – a 5.4% increase, equating to 27,000 deaths, according to the ONS. (See https://louisemorse.com/are-we-letting-isolated-frail-old-ladies-die/)
And, as an aside, (do tell me if I’ve got it wrong), but isn’t the country’s struggle to pay off huge loans and the resulting austerity measures, including the cuts in social funding, the result of the 2007 financial crash caused by dubious trading by young investment bankers?
What about women’s ‘lower’ pensions?
Driving to Yorkshire along the M5 last Tuesday I received a call from Lauren, one of Transworld Radio’s Producers to see if I’d like to comment on the delay to women’s pensions and the offer that they could take them earlier but at a reduced rate. So from the car park at Strensham services, we talked over my mobile phone. The interview was broadcast last Saturday, but you can hear it until Saturday on http://www.twr.org.uk/newsdesk/
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I find this “intergenerational unfairness” debate rears its ugly head at regular intervals. One of the arguments constantly brought up is that the baby boomer generation had the advantage of free university education. They forget that less than 5 % of school leavers had the opportunity to go to university at that time. One of the reasons why it was easier for that generation to buy their own homes was that they had been working ( and saving hard!) from the age of 16 to do so. No gap year adventures for them.