All want to spare old age benefits from cuts
Published on 23 September 2010 12:00 AM
Young and old united in desire to spare old age benefits from spending cuts, says Age UK
Most people worried means-test will put those in need off claiming support
People aged over 65 and the general public are united in demanding that the universality of key old age entitlements such as Winter Fuel Payments and free prescriptions is not compromised in October's spending review, according to new research from Age UK.
With less than a month to go before the Government's announcement on spending cuts, a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for Age UK1 suggests the level of support for protecting key old age entitlements knows little generational divide.
The same proportion of older people and people of all ages agree that free NHS treatment (90%), Attendance and Disability Allowance (75%) and Winter Fuel Payment (72%/73% of the over-65s)2 should continue to be available to everyone regardless of their income. Support for universal entitlement varies only marginally for free NHS eye tests and prescriptions (83% vs 88%), with a slightly wider gap for free bus passes (61% vs 69%) and free TV licences (67% vs 79%).
While there is strong support across the board for the principle underpinning universal benefits, views on means-testing are mixed. Nearly three-quarters of people (73%, against 78% of over-65s) think that everyone who has worked hard and paid taxes all their life deserves the same support from the government in old age regardless of their income.
Most people are also aware of the shortcomings of means-testing, with three-quarters of people aged 65 and over (74%, against 69% of people of all ages) believing it will put older people off applying for benefits even though they may be eligible.
But when asked specifically about high income groups, around three quarters (77%, against 75% of 65-plus) thought that wealthier retired people should not receive extra support from the government, like Winter Fuel Payments. However, in general people view Winter Fuel Payment as a top priority for protection, ranked only after the State Pension and the NHS.
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director, said:
"The message coming from the public is crystal clear. Most younger and older people don't want to see people in later life losing out on vital benefits. They agree with the principle of universal entitlement and are aware that means-testing key benefits may lead to the neediest among older people missing out on vital support.
"The solid cross-generational consensus on the importance of protecting old age benefits is a force the Chancellor will have to reckon with when he decides where to lower the axe next month.
"George Osborne promised to protect society's most vulnerable from the worst of the cuts, but slashing social care budgets or old age benefits will impact precisely on the poorest, frailest and most isolated older people. People of all ages will be holding the Chancellor to his promise."
Age UK is also comparing the poll findings with the views of delegates at the three party conferences. In a live polling event with Ipsos MORI, delegates at a Liberal Democrat conference fringe event run by Age UK showed that protecting care for frail and disabled people was a priority in the forthcoming spending review. They said "care for frail and disabled people" was the area of Government spending they would least like to see cut with just 1 per cent of the delegates present voting for care to face cuts3.
Notes to Editors
1. Fieldwork took place between 27th August and 5th September 2010. Ipsos MORI conducted 1,000 interviews a representative sample of adults in Great Britain aged 18+ by telephone, in addition we interviewed an extra 235 people aged 65+ to make 480 respondents aged 65+
2. The first percentage refers to all ages, the second to 65+
3. 98 delegates at the Age UK fringe event at Liberal Democrat Conference on Sunday 19th September 2010 used IML voting pads to answer a series of questions
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged. The Age UK family includes Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI