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Rise in pensioner poverty rates: Action needed to tackle scourge of one in six pensioners living below the poverty line

23 March 2023

New statistics from the Scottish Government revealed today that 15% of pensioners in Scotland (approaching 1 in 6) live in relative poverty after housing costs, up from 14% in the previous period.

Figures also estimate that the percentage of those aged 55-64 in relative poverty has risen from 19% to 22%, highlighting the need to ensure a labour market that is supportive of the needs of older workers.

Last year, Age Scotland’s advisers uncovered more than £660,000 in unclaimed financial support for older people who called their national 0800 12 44 222 helpline. However, the charity believes that a considerable number of older people on low and fixed incomes are still missing out on the support they are entitled to year on year.

Age Scotland’s Chief Executive, Mark O’Donnell, said:

“There should be alarm bells going off within the UK and Scottish governments right now. They need to give much more attention to this and work together on taking more older people out of poverty. Every year without fail, these statistics paint a similarly grim picture. It’s unacceptable that we are rapidly heading towards a society in which one in every six pensioners is living in relative poverty.

“Poverty is a scourge on our society and has a devastating impact on too many older people, but we have seen little to no progress to drive it down in recent years. We hope that the rising State Pension from April will go some way to help, but around 40% of the lowest income pensioners receive the necessary social security that they are entitled to and would lift them out of poverty. The UK Government must make the system more accessible and proactive.

"But if there was ever a time for the Scottish Government to realise that they needed to take some action it is now. It is also on their watch that these figures have been rising, but there is almost nothing to point to which demonstrates they have attempted to tackle it.

"The new First Minister should have this high on their agenda and develop a pensioner poverty strategy which includes a national benefits uptake campaign helping older people claim every penny that they are entitled to irrespective of the government who administers that benefit.

“The growing number of 55-64s living in poverty is also a real cause for concern when you consider what the future might look like for older people of working age.

“Given that a third of our workforce is already aged over 50, a figure that will only grow as the population continues to age, it’s vital that comprehensive long-term support is in place for older people who wish or need to continue working, as well as older carers who may face additional financial pressure due to caring responsibilities.

“By checking in with Age Scotland’s 0800 12 44 222 helpline, people can find out if they or older family members are missing out on any social security support. Breaking down barriers to claiming support and ensuring older people are able to boost their income is key to lifting more pensioners out of poverty.

“Ending pensioner poverty is a complex challenge but, with the cost of living placing an increasing number of older people under unmanageable pressure, we cannot afford to sit idly by as these figures continue to creep up.”