Friday, 26 April 2013
Benefits for Pensioners
Far too often I hear the left wing of politics complain about benefits - or the lack of them.
Certainly there are flaws in the investigation system handled by ATOS and I appreciate that we should support people who are unable to work, owing to some form of disability, but what about the whingers who moan about the pension those of us who are retired receive from the Treasury?
The first part of my answer is rhetorical. Don't they understand that the Treasury is stocked by the taxes of working people?
Shortly I will be 67 and have received the state pension since I became 60. As I paid the 'full stamp' throughout my long working life, I receive a little more than the basic state pension. However, the 'little more' is just that and certainly has no relation, in percentage rates, to the pension women who paid the 'married woman's stamp' receive. My attitude is it's a case of 'you win some and lose some' in this instance.
But let's not forget about Gordon Brown's pensions grab. When I was saving towards my retirement I thought I would be financially secure enough to pay my bills and have the proverbial sunshine holiday once a year. Sadly, Gordon Brown's theft destroyed my careful plans and there was nothing I could do about it.
What other benefits do pensioners receive? Much is said about the free TV licence for the over 75s, but that cost is a drop in the ocean. I've told, reliably, that it's not worth the effort applying for it because the paperwork is excessive.
Next come free prescriptions - indeed, as we grow older many of us require more medical care and as a result often prescribed medication. The route the English NHS is on may result in all of us having to pay a basic fee to see a GP and also prescriptions. Personally I don't think that's a bad idea, but the healthcare system is in such a mess that small changes will be insignificant in the great scheme of things. The UK should have introduced a system like Germany or Switzerland many years ago. These insurance systems ensure everyone has access to healthcare but, as with BUPA and the like, the more expensive the policy, the more 'enhanced' the treatment. In my years within these systems I never felt, because I paid a basic rate, that my treatment was inferior to someone with a more 'exclusive' insurance.
Then there is the 'Christmas bonus' - the Labour party's attempt to buy the grey vote. This money is quite unnecessary, although welcome and helps with the ever increasing winter fuel bills. It's unnecessary because, for pensioners who struggle to pay for heat and food in our cold winters, there are supposedly safety nets. Of course few work and once again, older people find applying for 'charity' humiliating.
Bus passes. What can I say? I don't possess one but should I be unable to drive one day, I could well find one very useful. A big part of being older is managing to keep a social life and for many a bus pass is invaluable but it could be means tested.
Governments say that means testing is expensive, but these days they hold so much information on each and every one of us, that it shouldn't be difficult to assess entitlement.
The general opinion from younger generations is that pensioners have a comfortable life. Many do and many aren't so fortunate, but what should be remembered is that far more of today's over 60s/65s contributed taxes throughout their long working lives. Most started work at 15 or 16 because universities were outwith families' income and further education was gained in evenings and often at the student's expense. We tried to expand/improve our skills because there was a possibility that we could earn more money.
Out of all the 'benefits' pensioners receive perhaps only the 'Christmas bonus' should be revised, but I doubt if any politician would be brave enough. Otherwise, leave our 'benefits' alone. A large section of older people quietly continue to contribute to society either through volunteering or caring for family or others.