Darling fails to appease pensioners

18 May 00
Alistair Darling's claim that the government is listening to pensioners fell on deaf ears this week as the National Pensioners' Convention demonstrated outside a conference on the over-50s where he was the main speaker.

19 May 2000

The social security secretary announced a special summit with employers later this year to tackle discrimination against older workers and highlighted government measures, such as the winter fuel allowance and the guaranteed minimum income, which he said would alleviate pensioner poverty. 'We want everyone to have financial security in retirement, not just the few,' he said.

But outside the conference, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, who joined campaigners, called on the government to restore the link between pensions and national average earnings.

'The mark of a civilised society is the way it treats its old and young – pensioners are owed a lot more. They would have £30 more a week if the link had been kept,' he said. 'It is six times more expensive to administer a means-tested benefit than it is to administer a universal one.'

Neil Duncan-Jordan of the NPC dismissed the recent 75p increase in the basic pension as 'an insult' and accused the government of ignoring the real issue. 'Their measures are not enough to address the hardship many people are facing,' he said.

Monica Armitage-Smith of the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group, said many people would not apply for the top-up benefits available under the minimum income guarantee. 'They know about them but they won't take them up because they feel that it's charity,' she explained. 'We were promised a pension, we paid our national insurance contributions and now we've been cheated.'


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