The Benefit System

Is this the end of Universal Benefits?

Is this the end of Universal Benefits?

Universal Benefits to the Elderly

It has been suggested that Nick Clegg MP has argued that wealthy pensioners should no longer receive universal benefits, such as The Winter Fuel allowance and Free Bus passes.  Ed Milliband has also suggested that this was an option, saying that these benefits should be focused on the poorest in society.  This move has also found support with former Labour leader Tony Blair. Harriet Harman has also suggested that the policy should be reviewed. Baroness Anne Begg has argued that the benefits paid to pensioners make up a sizeable chunk of the country’s budget and therefore they should be reviewed. The Daily Mail has suggested that winter fuel  cost taxpayers £2.2billion Ian Duncan Smith has suggested that ‘wealthy pensioners’ should give back these benefits.

However, these proposed moves have not gone unquestioned.  Ros Altman, head of Saga, has argued that means tests are complex and that they will inhibit pensioners from applying for needed help. He argued that;

“Of course, in theory, it makes little sense to pay money to wealthy pensioners who do not really need it, but then will the next step be to say that these pensioners don’t need the rest of their state pension either? Taxing these payments would raise some money, but means-testing would be a disaster.” read here

These debates have been heated and split the main parties.  It must be said that any Minister who seriously considers touching these benefits will have to be brave or foolish, since older people vote more often than their younger counterparts.

This debate follows on the heals of the changes in child benefits; changes that sees child benefit being effectively being withdrawn from families with a high income. What do you think?  Are these benefits necessary levellers in an unequal world or an expensive luxury we can’t afford?

By Victoria Richards

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