10th October 2014
Older generations would be willing to give up their universal benefits, such as free TV licences and bus passes, if the money saved is put towards funding for health and social care.
Research by over-50s service provider Saga, shows that older generations value their universal age-related benefits and see them as a ‘social contract between the generations’ – pay back for contributions made throughout their lives. However, as valuable as the benefits are, which includes help with heating costs, free prescriptions, and bus passes, many older people would be happy to go without them if the money was ring-fenced for healthcare and later life care.
A poll of over 50s showed free prescriptions were the most valued benefit and just 7% would be willing to give up the benefit or pay tax on it but the figure more than doubled to 15% if they know the money would be used for care.
A quarter of people would give up their free TV licence and 39% would do so if the funds were ring-fenced. Over a quarter, 27%, would give up their bus pass, and the figure increased to 38% it the funds were used to improve health and social care.
Those with higher incomes were far more likely to give up benefits than those on lower incomes, 30% versus 13%.
Paul Green of Saga said: ‘Clearly nobody wants something they already have to be taken away from them, however our research shows that a significant minority would be willing to have some benefits taxed or be focused on poorer pensioners.
‘Support for this has undoubtedly grown over the past year, and are more pronounced if they know the money was ring-fenced for the NHS and elderly care. It appears that the reality of the funding crisis in the nation’s social care system is dawning on many over-50s. So while there remains a general distrust that the money will be spent wisely, if the funds were to be ring-fenced, the Saga generations would be more likely to support changes to universal benefits.’
Universal benefits have come under scrutiny lately as both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have vowed to cut benefits for the wealthiest pensioners. Pensions minister Steve Webb said at the Liberal Democrat conference last week that he recognised ‘that some groups don’t need extra help from the state, such as the small minority of pensioners who pay tax at the higher rate’ and that he would also cut winter fuel payments and free TV licences.