While the chaos of the UK Government’s shambolic Brexit negotiations has dominated the headlines, the Tories have sneaked through a cut to pension credit which could see some couples up to £7000 worse off.
During Prime Minister’s Questions last week, I raised this shameful move, which would affect thousands across Scotland and the whole UK.
Pension Credit is a benefit designed to top up income for pensioners with a weekly income below a set amount.
The change proposed would mean that for couples where one person is of state pension age and the other is below, the individual in receipt of state pension would no longer be able to claim Pension Credit to top up their household income.
The cut was part of the Welfare Reform Act that was voted for in 2012, yet it’s only now that the UK Government has signalled its intention to implement this clause without debate or a vote in the House of Commons – seven years and two governments after it was voted on.
Age UK has pointed out couples claiming in the future could be nearly £140 a week worse off than before the change – an incredible £7000-per-year cut for some pensioners. And the UK already has the lowest state pension in the developed world, according to OECD figures.
Pensioners living in poverty is not a myth, it is a reality for far too many.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one in six pensioners in the UK already lives in poverty – up from one in ten just over 20 years ago.
How this heartless Tory Government can think to implement a cut to a vital pension top-up at this time is unbelievable.
Indeed, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2018 Report highlighted that previous falls in pensioner poverty were in part due to the introduction of Pension Credit. The evidence is clear – this cut must be reversed.
My SNP colleague Neil Gray MP attempted to force a debate in Westminster on the issue to allow MPs to vote on the change but he was unfortunately unsuccessful.
In sharp contrast to Westminster, the SNP Scottish Government’s budget, which was outlined in Holyrood recently, confirms the party’s commitment to older people. The Scottish budget provides more than £100million to tackle fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes.
Moreover, the Scottish Government will continue to provide a concessionary bus pass for everyone aged over 60 and eligible disabled people in Scotland, allowing Scotland’s older people and disabled people to travel for free on local or Scottish long-distance buses.
The Scottish Government cannot be expected to mitigate for the incompetence of a Tory Cabinet that Scotland didn’t vote for, implementing failed policy that will make our citizens poorer. It’s time the Tories listened to the united voices of SNP MPs, stakeholders and charities and scrapped this ridiculous cut.
In an independent Scotland, we could guarantee Scotland gets the policies that it votes for, saying goodbye to legislation that can’t be scrutinised and policies that would see us worse off.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.