Scrap "triple lock" on pensions, urges UK Government adviser

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 8 March 2017 in News

Dr Jim McCormick calls for the “triple lock” on pensions to be scrapped as poor children and young workers now outstrip older people living in poverty

A UK Government adviser has called for the “triple lock” on pensions to be scrapped as poor children and young workers now outstrip older people living in poverty.

Dr Jim McCormick, a member of the Department of Work and Pension’s Social Security Advisory Committee, said scrapping the guarantee that pensions will rise either in line with average earnings, the consumer price index, or 2.5% would free up resources for struggling children and young people.

He said there has been an “unprecedented” drop in pensioner poverty in the last twenty years, while working age poverty has seen very little change.


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And while some progress has been made in child poverty, that progress has stalled and is set to to rise, Dr McCormick told a Tackling Poverty conference in Paisley sponsored by Holyrood magazine and Renfrewshire Council.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicts a 50% increase in relative child poverty by 2020.

Dr McCormick, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s associate director for Scotland, said: “We should drop the triple lock for pensioners.

“We can do that without damaging our record on reducing poverty.”

He said pensioner poverty can be more effectively addressed by improving take up of benefits like council tax reduction or attendance allowance, which many pensioners are entitled to but do not claim.

“You can take off the triple lock, you can do a different form of protection for the state pension, and free up a lot of resources to assist with others in the population,” he said.

He added: “Over the last twenty years or so, older people in the population in Scotland have experienced an unprecedented drop in the rate of poverty.

“We’re not there yet but it’s come down from about a third twenty years ago, to between 12-15 percent — a huge drop which needs to be sustained.

“Children have seen some progress throughout that period, but that progress has stalled and it is set to go back up.

“Working age adults have seen very little change over that period.

“And although child poverty has come down in recent years, it has shifted to working households.

“About two thirds of children growing up in poverty are in working households, where at least one adult is in work.”

He said the image of poverty has changed from “unemployed people living in vast housing estates” to “young adults struggling for security in the jobs and housing market”.

“Young working and renting is the new face of poverty in Scotland,” he said.

“There has been a big drop in poverty in the social rented sector…partly because of the fall in poverty in pensioner households who are disproportionately more likely to live in social rented housing.

“It has coming down a bit for owner-occupiers, but it has gone up in the private rented sector and has more than doubled in the last decade…particularly for working age households and especially young couples and their families — that should really concern us.”

He added: “One parent households have the highest risk of poverty, but young men aged 25-34 at the highest risk of destitution by quite a long distance and that is to do with the holes in the safety net of our welfare system and sometimes in our housing system so sorting that out should be the first priority of sorting out poverty.”

Dr Paul Tyrer, head of social justice strategy at the Scottish Government, said: “One of the reasons that older people don’t claim benefits is that they feel that something might be taken away from them, perhaps, if they make a claim so there’s a need for reassurance.”

Hanna McCulloch, policy and parliamentary officer at Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, called for claimants to have the right to a mandatory “income maximisation check” to ensure they are receiving everything they are entitled to.

She said: “We hear from a lot of people who are some DWP benefits who will not be told about other benefits they’re entitled to — they won’t be told when claiming Universal Credit that they might be entitled to a short term benefits advance.”

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