The Chancellors’ Autumn Statement on 3 December was trailed as the last big economic policymaking event before next year’s General Election. At Age UK we’ve been looking over the announcements and responding to the points that impact on older peoples’ lives.
Health and Social Care
Increase in NHS spending
Announced several days in advance of the statement to Parliament, the Government will increase NHS spending by £2 billion next year. This includes £1.3 billion of new money and the remainder from the existing Department of Health budget.
They also announced a further £15 million aimed at boosting investment in future dementia treatments and an additional £1.2 billion over 4 years to be provided to upgrade and modernise GP and primary care facilities.
Age UK has welcomed this extra investment in the NHS as we all know how crucial the health service is to the lives of so many older and younger people in our country.
The NHS itself has calculated that it will need an additional £8 billion per year by 2020, and we have called on every political party to commit to making this investment.
No new money for social care services
However, the missing piece from yesterday’s announcement is the increasingly crucial need to invest more in social care services, for which we saw no new money made available.
Age UK has argued that new funding in the NHS will fail to stabilise and sustain the health service unless and until the social care funding gap is filled.
Millions of older people need social care as well as health care and it is indefensible to deprive the social care system of the funding needed. All of the parties should commit to investing more in social care ahead of next year’s General Election.
State pensions and benefits
The basic state pension will be increased by £2.85 per week in April next year – an increase of 2.5%. The standard rate of pension credit guarantee will also be increased by £2.85 so will be £151.20 for a single person. The full list of uprated benefits is available on the GOV.UK website.
The Chancellor announced that the basic income tax allowance will be £10,600 in 2015-16. The higher age allowances for people who reached age 65 before April 2013 have been frozen, so the allowance for those born between 6 April 1938 and 5 April 1948 is now the same while the allowance for those born before 6 April 1948 is just slightly higher at £10,660.
The Government has announced the location for the second proposed new garden city as Bicester in Oxfordshire. Age UK believes that new garden cities, and other new housing developments, must be designed with the needs of an ageing population in mind. In particular they must be designed to the lifetime homes standard. We are calling for new garden cities to be exemplars of age friendly designs and communities.
At the Budget announcement in March we saw a radical overhaul of the private pensions system, with the removal of the requirement to purchase an annuity with the money from a defined contribution pension scheme when people approach retirement.
In the Autumn Statement yesterday the Chancellor made some further announcements relating to this reform, including a confirmation that from next April people will be able to pass on their unused pension savings to any nominated beneficiary when they die, instead of the 55% charge which currently applies. If the individual dies before age 75, the beneficiary will pay no tax on the funds. If they die after the age of 75, they will pay their top rate of income tax, or 45% if the funds are taken as a lump sum.
As this change would not benefit people who chose to buy an annuity, the Chancellor also announced that from next April beneficiaries of individuals who die under the age of 75 with a joint life or guaranteed term annuity will be able to receive any future payment from the policy tax free.
These are some of the changes announced in yesterday’s statement which affect older people. You can download our Autumn Budget briefing (PDF 291 KB) for a full rundown of the issues Age UK has responded to following the Autumn Statement.
Visit the Age UK Blog to read More needed to make Britain a great place to grow older, contributed by Mike Smith, joint Head of Public Affairs at Age UK.