A quick roundup of news around benefits – looking at older people’s benefits vs younger people’s benefits, GPs and ESA ‘fit notes’, and the rising use of foodbanks.

Older people’s benefits vs young people’s benefits

House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness last month reported to the Commons that age-specific benefits for older people should be replaced with support for the young, to deliver a fairer society. The report recommended housing and training be prioritised over such things as free TV licenses.  The committee also made further suggestions to help plan for the ‘100-year life’ that is predicted to become the norm, as medical science improves longevity.  These include:

  • Ensuring planning policies cater for the expected housing needs of both younger and older people
  • Increasing funding for young people who don’t go to college or university
  • Improving the rights for people who work for the ‘gig economy’.

Their proposals for changes to pensioner benefits include:

  • Removing the triple lock for pensions, which raises the basic state pension by the rate of average earnings increases, inflation or 2.5% – whichever is higher
  • Phasing out free TV licences based on age (currently free for over-75s) and ensuring the government decides on whether to give free licences based on household income
  • Limiting free bus passes for the over-65s and winter fuel payments until five years after retirement age

Pensioner households are not on average better off than household of people of working age, but charities say that pensioner poverty is on the rise, and warn against cutting pensioner benefits unilaterally.  You can read more on the BBC website.


GPs and ESA ‘fit notes’

The DWP has given potentially dangerous advice to GPs regarding ‘fit notes’ for people with an illness or disability, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.  The DWP advice does not make clear what should happen in the case of claimants who have been rejected for ESA (Employment Support Allowance).  A letter from the DWP to GPS says that GPS are no longer required to provide notes to patients if their ESA claim has been rejected.  However it does not make it clear that people who are appealing the decision still need the notes from their GPs in order to receive the ‘assessment rate’ of ESA to which they are entitled while their claim is being processed.

The concern arises for claimants who do not receive the fit note, and are therefore not able to claim assessment rate ESA while their appeal is being heard, that they would need to claim Universal Credit or Jobseekers Allowance, and try to meet the jobseeking requirements of those benefits, which could harm their health. GPs have been issued with revised guidance, but it is likely that there are people who have been helped under the previous guidance, who are appealing their ESA refusal, who are missing out on the money they’re entitled to.


Trussell Trust figures show rise in Foodbank use of 19% since last year

The Trussell Trust published its annual figures recently, showing that there has been a 73% increase in foodbank use over the last five years, and calling on the Government to fix the problems that have caused this. It also challenged Amber Rudd’s assertion that Universal Credit has not been responsible for the problems reported.

See the Guardian article for more information about the Trussell Trust’s work, and the people to whom they are giving food parcels.