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Later Life Ambitions Quarterly update

Later Life Ambitions Quarterly update

In Westminster the summer period usually remains quiet as the Houses of Parliament rises for the summer recess, however this year proved to be an eventful few months, filled with lots of speculation about the Government’s potential plans for Parliament’s return.

There was lots of media coverage during the break over the Government’s plans to scrap the ‘Triple Lock’ pension protections, despite committing in their 2019 election manifesto that they would not. The state pension Triple Lock was introduced in 2010 and has been critical to maintaining the standard of living of many older people and protecting vulnerable pensioners from poverty. It is a measure which guarantees that the basic state pension will rise each year by either 2.5%, the rate of inflation or the average earnings growth – whichever is largest. Originally, it was introduced to address the long-term decline in the value of the state pension relative to earnings.

Many of the measures implemented by the Government to protect people during COVID-19, both physically and financially, have had a significant knock-on effect on the Government’s finances costing billions of pounds. Now that the country is returning to some sort of pre-pandemic normality, the Treasury was reportedly looking for way to reduce its spending and pay back the money it spent on such policies.
However, the Triple Lock presented a particular issue as it was expected to cost the Government an additional £4 billion to maintain the link to earnings this year alone. Last year, many people were placed on furlough and there was a general slow-down within the economy that saw earnings less than would usually be expected within a year. With the economy returning to its pre-pandemic levels, it was expected that wages would rise on average by around 8%.

Therefore, it was important that Later Life Ambitions made clear to Parliamentarians the impact that removing the protections would have on the wellbeing and financial security of older people. We wrote to both MPs and Peers with a briefing outlining how targeting the Triple Lock would result in an unfair recovery for older people. Pensioners would be forced to pay for the cost of the pandemic despite the many sacrifices that older people had made over the previous 18 months. We prepared resources and drafted content to make it easy for parliamentarians to support the triple lock, by tabling Parliamentary questions, applying for a debate on the issue or writing to the Chancellor and the Treasury on the topic.

Unfortunately, it was officially confirmed on 7 September, two days after Parliament’s return from the summer recess, that the Government would be pursuing a one-year pause on the Triple Lock where this link to earnings was removed. This would instead make the state pension protections a ‘Double Lock’. Despite this, Later Life Ambitions has continued to campaign to ensure the Government continues to work to support older people. We will be working to promote that this should only be a ‘one-off’ and should not set a precedent of a wider policy of targeting older people’s pensions in the future.

The Government also outlined its new plan for healthcare, adult social care and the new funding plan that it would adopt for both. The introduction of a new Health and Social Care Levy on working adults is expected to lead to an investment of £36 billion over the next three years. It was also announced that those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 would receive means tested support from the Government, raising the upper limit from £23,250 for those that are entitled to state support for their care. There was also a cap placed on the cost of care for individuals to £86,000 in their lifetime. After this announcement, Later Life Ambitions worked to make clear that although it welcomed the commitment shown by the Government to rectify the underfunding of social care, we felt that the proposals would leave older people worse off. We will continue working to ensure the Government does more to improve the quality and access to appropriate housing and social care.

Another core focus over the summer break has been on ensuring Later Life Ambition’s perspective is heard as part of several select committee inquiries that have been launched. We have submitted responses to both the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry on the rights of cohabiting partners and the Treasury Committee’s inquiry on an equal recovery following the pandemic. Following the evidence we submitted to the Women and Equalities Committee, Later Life Ambitions has been asked to give oral evidence in person to the committee which we will now begin preparing for.

Finally, as we move into the last few months of the year, attention has turned to the Comprehensive Spending Review and Autumn Budget on 27 October. This is when the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out the funding that will be allocated to each government department over the coming years as well as the big economic policies the Government will be focussing on. We expect that a significant focus of this will be on the post-pandemic recovery as well as levelling up across the country but there will be questions around the rising cost of living, including increases in energy prices as well as the Pension and Lifetimes Savings Association’s report on retirement living standards in the UK which found that the budget required for a comfortable retirement living standard has increased by £600 for one person and £2,200 for a couple between 2019 and 2021. Our focus as Later Life Ambitions will be on ensuring that older people are not disproportionately impacted by any announcements and that the cost of living for pensioners is protected.