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Thinking About The Ageing Population, Chancellor? Pension Reform's Just The Start...

25/11/2016 13:35

Blink and you would have missed it. The Chancellor's mention of responding to the issue of longevity in the next parliament was fleeting and has been widely interpreted as scrapping the triple lock on pensions. But Chancellor, if you are at last beginning to think about the ageing population, pension reform is only one piece of the jigsaw.

The universal state pension needs to stay, to protect individuals from facing poverty in later life. The Cridland review is looking at affordability of our current state pension as we live longer, but he also recognises that raising the State Pension Age without also supporting people to work longer is not a balanced response. Out of 10.2 million people aged 50 to the State Pension Age, 2.9 million are out of work, many of them involuntarily. Supporting more people to remain in work for longer will be key to the economic success of the country.

This means a focus on lifetime learning, on recruiting and retraining older workers, and a genuinely inclusive economy with more fulfilling work - not just 'gig economy' jobs that don't usually include pension schemes. Government and employers also need to support over a million people - disproportionately women - who are carers as well as working.

Longevity budgeting also needs to help everyone to save more, and if people can afford it, pay more into private or workplace pensions. For many, auto-enrolment into a pension scheme has come too late.

The other big headline was housing. The ageing population needs to be considered here too - 95% of current housing stock isn't suited for people as they age. Unless builders and planners recognise they are building for an ageing population, our housing infrastructure will continue not to be fit for purpose. And of course we need a health and social care service that is properly funded: we need the security of knowing that if our last years are housebound or bed bound that we will be looked after.

Changing the triple lock may be one part of the solution. But Mr Hammond, and your fellow government ministers, please look at the big picture - our ageing population needs an urgent and whole government response.

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