This shocking news report should move us all into some action:
Reform of the pensions and benefits system is urgently needed to tackle pensioner poverty in the UK, which is among the worst in Europe, campaigners said today.
The call for action came after European commission statistics showed that 30% of over-65s in the UK were living on incomes far below the national average. That was the fourth highest level in Europe, according to the figures, with pensioners in Romania, where 19% fell below the poverty threshold, among those faring better than in the UK.
Only pensioners in Cyprus (51%), Latvia (33%), and Estonia (33%) came out worse. The EU average was 19%.
The figures came ahead of the work and pensions committee’s review of government efforts to tackle pensioner poverty, which is due to be published on Thursday.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said the report demonstrated that even in the years of growth before the recession, many older people were being left behind.
“In a country where the richest have incomes five times higher than the poorest, older people are disproportionately bearing the burden of this inequality,” she said.
“To lift millions of pensioners out of poverty and prevent this situation from getting worse in the future, this government and the next must find a more effective system to ensure benefits reach those who need them and meet the existing commitment to reform the pension system by 2012.”
Recent research by the charity showed that one in five people aged 60 and over were skipping meals to save money on food, while two-fifths were struggling to afford essential items.
The EU study found pensioners in the Czech Republic were least likely to be living in poverty, with 5% below the threshold of an income of 60% of the national median.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “It’s absolute nonsense to suggest this government is not committed to pensioners.
“Measures such as pension credit and winter fuel payments mean that even the poorest pensioners in the UK are still better off than the poorest pensioners in other countries.
“In 1997 our pensioners’ income was well below the European average. Today their income is nearly 10% higher than the EU average.
“Even the poorest pensioners in the UK are better off than the poorest pensioners in France or Germany.”