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pensions

Senior Citizens claiming Pension Credit will soon be subject to the same draconian system of monitoring and case reviews as the disabled and jobseekers, when the ‘assessed income period’ system is abolished in April 2016.

The Conservative-led Coalition Government included this nasty little time-bomb in its Pension Act of last year; at the moment AIPs are granted for people aged 65-plus and last for five years, during which recipients do not have to tell the Department for Work and Pensions of any changes to their income or capital but, from April 2016, they will.

People aged over 75 when the AIP is set are normally allowed it for an indefinite period but, again, this will cease from April 2016. The government will periodically harass people in their twilight years, for the sake of a few farthings.

It is expected that the abolition of these periods will have a huge impact on those least able to defend themselves –  people who receive a life cover payout following the death of a partner, or those trading down in house size, or people carrying out any of the adjustments that may be necessary on retirement.

Many will lose all entitlement to Pension Credit – but are currently unaware of the plan to cancel Assessed Income Periods.

Have you ever heard about it?

In addition, pensioners thus affected will also lose entitlement to valuable NHS benefits.

Craig Berry, writing in the TUC’s Touchstone blog in 2013 (!) told us: “The ending of the ‘assessed income period’ for Pension Credit… is a bizarre decision (explicable only in the sense that it saves the Exchequer some cash) arising from the same mindset behind the cruel introduction of a seven-day waiting period before people can claim unemployment benefits.

“They want to make it harder to claim the benefits to which we are entitled and, in many cases, desperately need.

“The government thinks that this change will save as much as £45 million per year from 2017/18 – not an inconsiderable sum given the unemployment benefit waiting period, which will cause significant hardship to many households, will bring in only £260 million from the same year.

“This policy is vital to reduce complexity within the means-tested benefit system for pensioners – an extremely complex system marred by low take-up rates. The system is about to get even messier because the Pensions Bill will effectively end ‘passporting’ between different benefits.”

The Coalition Government’s own impact assessment claims that the scheme “has not worked as effectively as it should, as they were set such that a huge volume of cases came up for review at the same time, causing delays.”

It states: “There is a strong [financial?] argument for simplifying the policy to avoid confusion about which changes needed to be reported. The proposed change would simply require all customers to report all changes in their circumstances as they occur.”

It adds: “Applying changes in retirement provision as they occur is estimated to reduce the Exchequer spend on Pension Credit by around £80m a year.” [bolding mine]

Recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) know what this will mean. At the end of their lives, older people will be subjected to a constant barrage of reassessments and unheralded case reviews, as part of a strategy intended to discourage them from claiming a benefit that is theirs by legal right.

It is another reason for pensioners to abandon any support for the Conservatives – and this is why the Tories aren’t telling anyone.

Pensioners: If you vote Conservative in May, you are inviting them to stab you in the back.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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