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Mean-ie Testing?

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       Benefits – the political hot potato that is served up at almost every dinner table, canteen and communal place in society.  If you know politics, you have a lot to say on it, if you don’t know politics, you’ll still have a lot to say on it! The benefit system immediately sparks thoughts of council houses and child allowance, some people forget the true ‘benefits’ of old age, and disregard the states pension aids as part of the benefit system.

State pension age has recently changed. Depending on what year you are born in, the age you are allowed to file for a state pension will increase (to find out when you can claim a state pension go on checkout the state pension website.)

It currently stands that upon starting your state pension you are entitled to:

  • A free bus travel pass (check out the pensioners that travelled 500 miles with their free pass!)
  • Winter fuel payments (including a Christmas bonus)
  • Even if you haven’t paid enough through national insurance, the government will ensure that you will get a reasonable amount of state pension to keep you going.

This is all very nice; I for one feel very reassured that I would not go hungry when I am old and grey! Similarly, it is comforting to know that my favourite grandma will not be too cold this winter!

However, the reality of this kind gesture is, can the government really afford to do this for every man and woman at state pension age? Britain’s state pension is one of the lowest in the developed world, but the benefit system needs a desperate reform in order to get the economy back on track. A proposition to means – test the winter fuel payment is currently under siege.

On paper, this proposal seems perfectly fair, in my opinion, if you have enough money to heat your house as a pensioner, then accepting the winter fuel payment is unnecessary charity, some pensioners would very much appreciate an increase in the winter fuel allowance, which the higher income elderly could probably afford to donate.

In reality, means testing isn’t that easy. Where is it that you draw the line between a modest income and a high earning income? “Only 2pc of pensioners pay higher-rate tax and those who are not on pension credit are still only on incomes of around £12,000- £15,000” (Ros Altman – The Telegraph)

Statistics show that on average, 20,000 pensioners die of cold each winter. Implying that the benefits aren’t reaching those who really need it. There is no doubt that the cost of social care is a massive predicament within politics, and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer for it.

To ‘means test’ these pensioners would cost the government more money and time, and probably result in more pensioners with modest to low incomes freezing to death. It saddens me that people who do not need this benefit accept it anyway as a matter of principle. I think that it becomes a moral obligation to help those who are worse of than you, rather than accept what you are offered, simply because you are entitled to it.

To read more on this debate:  The Telegraph   The BBC

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