House of Commons Library

Pensioner benefits

Published Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Looks at the main benefits available to pensioners, in addition to the State Pension, and the debate on whether they should be reformed

Jump to full report >>

The term ‘pensioner benefits’ is used in this note to refer to those benefits that are available to people of or near State Pension age in addition to the State Pension. They include, for example, disability and carers’ benefits and benefits for people who have reached a specific age such as free prescriptions, the Winter Fuel Payment, free TV licences and concessionary bus travel. Means-tested benefits include Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support and certain passported benefits.

Some have argued that the Winter Fuel Payment and other “universal benefits” can no longer be justified, in light of the deficit and benefit cuts facing non-retired households. In its April 2016 report on Intergenerational Fairness, for example, the Work and Pensions Committee said that such measures led to “ill-targeted support, further complicate the benefits system and are far harder to put right than to introduce in the first place.” Given welcome improvements in pensioner incomes in recent years, there was “no case for future governments to contemplate any increase in the value or range of universal pensioner benefits” and that they should “not be off-limits” when spending priorities are set in future Parliaments. (Work and Pensions Committee, HC 59, April 2016, paras 86 and 87).

In their manifestos for the 2017 election, opposition parties were committed to maintaining the Winter Fuel Payment and free bus passes as universal (although the Liberal Democrats proposed withdrawing the former from higher-rate tax payers). The Conservative Party said it would means-test the Winter Fuel Payment but “maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament.”

The 26 June 2017 agreement between the Conservative and Democratic Unionist Parties said that both parties had agreed that there would be no change to “the universal nature of the Winter Fuel Payment.”

This note provides an overview of the main “pensioner benefits” and the debate on how and whether they should be reformed.

Commons Briefing papers SN06354

Authors: Djuna Thurley; Steven Kennedy; Richard Keen

Topics: Benefits policy, Pensions, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.