A New Future for Social Security – Age Scotland submission

Age Scotland has put forward an wide-ranging submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future for social security in Scotland.

The charity endorses the basic principle that social security should be seen as an investment in the people of Scotland and in strengthening our social fabric.  We propose models which should exhibit trust in people and respect for their dignity.

We advocate an end to rules which are probably discriminatory based on age – such as the lack of a mobility component for attendance allowance, unlike other disability benefits – and we support the principle that universal winter fuel payments are the most effective means of reaching those most in need of support.

The submission is extensive, comprising some 56 pages, although the consultation paper was over 140 pages long and posed over 170 questions.  It is the most detailed policy submission which the charity or its predecessors have ever compiled.

The submission gives the charity’s perspective on a wide range of specific benefits affecting older people which are being devolved (including disability and carer’s benefits, funeral payments, and winter fuel payments).

It also deals with a series of administrative matters on how eligibility should be worked out, how benefits should be paid, and the overarching principles and intended outcomes which should be a focus for the new system.

Another important aspect is ensuring that the new devolved system works well with the other benefits which will remain reserved to the UK Parliament and Government, and administered by the DWP, JobCentres and the Pension Service.  Clearly it is important for there to be no disruption to payments on which vulnerable people depend, either as the responsibility is transferred or as changes the Scottish Government intends to make are implemented.

The response was informed by the views and experiences of older people themselves, which we gathered at eight distinct consultation events around the country, and also the expertise of our policy staff and helpline advisors, who regularly support older people with benefits concerns and queries.  We aim to use this invaluable information in our further discussions with Government Ministers and officials as the policies take shape and legislation is prepared to give effect to them.

Download our submission


Please feel free to share any views you have by emailing policycomms@agescotland.org.uk

Scottish Government consultation about new benefit powers

The Scottish Government is consulting about how best to use its new benefit powers, the consultation is open until 28th October 2016. You can find full information here.

The new benefit powers most likely to affect older people relate to

  • Disability related benefits including Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance
  • Cold Weather Payments
  • Winter Fuel Payments
  • Funeral Payments

The Scottish Government is interested in your opinions on a wide range of issues including:

  • Are there any particular words or phrases that should not be used when delivering social security in Scotland?
  • Should social security in Scotland make some provision for face to face contact?
  • What are your views on what is right and wrong with current disability benefits?
  • Are there changes that could be made to disability benefits that would significantly improve equality?
  • What do you think should be paid for by a Funeral Payment?

How to get involved

1. You can respond to the full consultation on the Scottish Government’s website here

2. Alternatively we have summarised the questions most likely to affect older people which you can respond to these here. Your comments will inform Age Scotland’s response to the Scottish Government.

3. We are also running a series of consultation events in partnership with Age Scotland member groups across Scotland – see details below.

  • Orkney – Age Concern Orkney, Kirkwall – Monday 3rd October (Exact time TBC)
  • Bellshill – Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre – Tuesday 4th October 10:00am – 12:15pm
  • New Cumnock – Lochside House Hotel – Tuesday 4th October 1pm – 3pm
  • Inverness – Merkinch Community Centre – Thursday 6th October 2pm – 3pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Glasgow – The Senior Centre, Castlemilk – Thursday 6th Octoiber 10:30am – 12:30pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Elgin – Elgin Youth Cafe – Friday 7th October 10am – 2pm
  • Grangemouth – Venue TBC – Thursday 13th October – 11:00am – 1:30pm
  • Edinburgh – Pilmeny Resource Centre – Thursday 20th October 1:30pm – 3:30pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Dundee – Full details TBC

If you would like to attend an event, please contact Helen Simpson at helen.simpson@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.

Remember, if you are unable to attend these events, you can still submit direct to the Scottish Government or through our online consultation. We can also mail out a response form to those people who do not have internet access.

“Disability Benefits” – March’s Hot Tips

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

March’s theme is “Disability Benefits” and aims to give a brief overview of the main disability benefits available to older people in Scotland. In this blog, Heather Smith, Age Scotland’s Information and Advice Manager, explains why this time of year is a good time to check your benefit entitlement. 


For benefits advisers, Easter isn’t just the time to eat chocolate, it’s also time to look at changes to benefit rates and encourage people to check their entitlements, as benefit rates change a little in the new financial year. Many older people do not claim the benefits they are entitled to, perhaps because of pride, or the negative stereotypes of “benefit claimants” in some media or because they have not understood the intricacies of rules and regulations. Some media outlets also try to stir up disputes between generations by saying that older people are “well off” – some older people are, but others have had difficult lives where the idea of saving for the future had to take second place to day-to-day budgeting to pay everyday bills and expenses.

The main benefits for older people are State Retirement Pension, Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance.

State Pension

There is still some confusion about State Pension Age. This used to be 60 for a woman and 65 for a man, but the age for women is increasing fast and is now 62 ½, which can be a shock to a woman who in the context of a busy life has not kept an eye on welfare reform changes. The main change at 60 is now the “entitlement card” for concessionary travel, which in Scotland is not tied to the changes in State Pension Age.  There will be changes to State Pension in April 2016 when the rate will become “single tier” and number of qualifying years will change – this doesn’t affect anyone who is already getting their state pension.

Pension Credit

The age for anyone claiming Pension Credit is pinned to the increases in State Pension Age for a woman, so many people may be unsure about when they can claim. Our helpline Silver Line Scotland can track down the relevant date for you and help you to have a look at whether your income, capital and other circumstances mean that you are eligible to make a claim. Call them for free on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is the benefit for people who are 65 or over who need help with care or supervision. Many older people who could be entitled do not make a claim because they want to feel independent or they are just getting by without help. Others who do claim may not explain their needs effectively. They may have made gradual adjustments to their expectations as their health has deteriorated and their need for care has increased.

Attendance Allowance is based on the care you need, not the care you actually have. It can be claimed regardless of your income and capital, and you can spend it how you choose to. For those aged under 65, there is a different benefit called Personal Independence Payment.

From the calls we have had to our helpline, Age Scotland knows that many people like to have the facts about benefits clear in their own minds before talking to an adviser or making a claim for benefit. If you think or someone close to you may be entitled to make a claim, get in touch and a Silver Line Scotland Adviser can talk you through your right, on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “Thank you for caring”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”

Download yours today!

Hands off universal pensioner benefits

By Agnes McGroarty from the Scottish Seniors Alliance

‘Hands Off’ is the clear message coming from older people across Scotland, as a new UK wide campaign was launched last month defending the need for universal pensioner benefits.

Agnes McGroarty

Agnes McGroarty

The Hands Off campaign, which has already been backed by some of the most influential older people’s organisations in the UK, aims to safeguard benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions and TV licences after the 2015 general election.

Following comments made by the main political parties at Westminster indicating these benefits may be under threat, this campaign will emphasise their importance in achieving a decent standard of living for millions of pensioners across the UK, whilst also highlighting the costs and barriers associated with means-testing such benefits.

I would encourage people of all ages to sign the online e-petition and to email their local MP via the campaign website at www.handsoff.org.uk. If the e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Clearly, a debate would raise the profile of this issue with the current coalition government and amongst other UK political parties who may be in power following the 2015 general election. The real reason why pensioners need additional benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass is because our state pension is so poor. Yet despite this, every year older people add an extra £40bn to the economy in taxes, volunteering and unpaid caring. Universal benefits help to keep people active, independent, warm in their homes, healthy and involved in their communities. Universal benefits need to be defended not only for today’s pensioners, but for the pensioners of tomorrow as well.

During the last year, pensioners have felt under constant attack. The myth that older people have escaped any austerity measures is totally groundless, and we will fight to ensure there are no further cuts or means testing of vital benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions or TV licences. We call on every individual, regardless of age, to support us in our campaign to ensure these benefits are maintained for pensioners now and in the years to come.

We must make our voice heard now! Millionaire pensioners have been used as justification for further cuts or means-testing, but this campaign represents the views of real pensioners who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The Hands Off campaign is being officially backed by the Scottish Seniors Alliance, the National Pensioners’ Convention, Age Sector Platform in Northern Ireland and the Welsh Senate of Older People. For more information on the campaign, and to sign the e-petition, please visit www.handsoff.org.uk.

This was taken from our Magazine Advantage. Soap Box columns do not necessarily reflect Age Scotland’s views or policies. To submit an article call Advantage on 0845 833 0200 or email advantage@agescotland.org.uk.

Should pensioners pay more tax?

Lindsay Scott considers a new report from the Fabian Society that says old age is no longer a proxy for poverty and pensioners should pay more tax.

Senior couple worry about money

Pensioners should “share the pain” of austerity cuts and pay more tax to promote inter-generational fairness in the housing market, because high levels of home ownership among older people is unfair as middle-income workers’ wages stagnate and they cannot afford to buy a home.

This is the gist of a report produced by the left-of-centre think tank, the Fabian Society, which analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (Elsa) and came up with recommendations such as increasing pensioners’ taxes, cutting benefits, introducing a tax on property wealth and scrapping the Westminster Government’s “triple-lock” guarantee, which keeps pensions rising in line with the highest measure of inflation.

The paper, part of a series produced for the Hanover housing charity, suggests that the majority of older people are neither wealthy baby-boomers with “a surfeit of wealth and leisure” nor “pensioners on the breadline facing poverty, isolation and ill health”, so there should be a “presumption of equality” as “old age is no longer a proxy for poverty”.

Some of the Fabian Society’s suggestions may be worth exploring – it can be argued that it is illogical for wealthy pensioners to get untaxed hand-outs such as winter fuel payments while welfare payments to millions are squeezed. Benefits in kind, such as bus passes for people aged over 60 and free television licences for those over 75 are also something that could potentially be taxed.

But universal benefits can only be clawed back in tax if people have sufficient income, and the fact is there are only around 200,000 UK pensioners in the higher rate tax bracket and most of the country’s 11 million plus pensioners have much lower incomes, so the amount of money raised would not amount to anything near the £7.2 billion annually that the report predicts.

Scotland’s 1.2 million pensioners have undoubtedly made a significant contribution to our society and economy and will continue to do so in years to come, and it can be difficult for older people to change their financial plans as their options are likely to be very limited. They have also contributed national insurance payments throughout their working lives to receive in return a state pension that ensures a financial safety net but little more. So we shouldn’t be sparking inter-generational conflict by punishing home-owning pensioners – forcing them to downsize or face ever-higher taxes, but rather should be addressing the reasons why home ownership is decreasing among younger groups.

Supply is not meeting demand partly because planning laws are too stringent and stamp duty rates are sky-high. Perhaps another reason for younger groups not owning their own homes is the high and rising cost of housing in England and Wales, and particularly the south of England. Among those in the bottom half of the income distribution graph, housing costs are 25% higher in England and Wales than Scotland. A decade ago the gap was 10%.

Remember, everyone ages, so whatever taxes are introduced for today’s pensioners will also affect future generations of pensioners. It is fundamentally wrong to shift the burden onto a single group, regardless of which generation it is. People in later life are no more advantaged or disadvantaged a group than any other in society.

Lindsay Scott is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Manager