Believe in Scotland is supporting the Wellbeing Pension Campaign, which is fighting for pension reform that will allow older people in Scotland to live with dignity. Here, we will provide some information about the campaign and how to get involved.
The Appalling UK Pensions System
The most recent available figures show that 18% of pensioners living in the UK (15% in Scotland) live in relative poverty. The cost of living crisis has thrown this issue into sharp relief; studies have estimated that the proportion of net income received by this group that is spent on essentials such as housing, water and electricity has increased from 70% to 87% between 2022 and 2023. The UK Government’s decision to suspend the triple lock on pensions at the exact moment pensioners needed it most shows that they were willing to abandon one of the most vulnerable groups in society when it suited them.
Last year, the Wellbeing think tank Scotianomics conducted an investigation into pensioner poverty in the UK. It found that not only are there unacceptable levels of pensioner poverty but also that the UK Government has actively designed the state pension system in a way that means that pensioners are not provided even the most basic standard of income.
The Wellbeing Pension
Luckily, Scotianomics was also able to devise a solution to this – the Wellbeing Pension! This is a universal pension of £235.00, per week, for every pensioner regardless of work history. The pension further simplifies the UK pension system of Basic/Newly Retired Pensions, Additional State Pensions and Pension Credit.
The Wellbeing Pension is calculated by devising a Minimum Income Standard, which represents a basket of goods and services that pensioners need for a basic standard of living. This is similar to how organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculate the Real Living Wage. Scotianomics found that the UK’s current pensions provision fell significantly short of the devised standard of income.
Since the publication of the original report, Scotianomics has updated their calculations to keep up to date with inflation and the cost of living crisis. Currently, the Wellbeing Pension sits at £235.00 per week – £78.80 above the Basic State Pension and £31.15 above the Newly Retired State Pension.
Can we afford it?
Many people might question whether the UK Government can afford such a policy. Currently, last month’s National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from current workers are used to pay out the State Pension. Annually, this costs the UK Government around £123bn. If the Wellbeing Pension at £235.00 per week were adopted, this cost would increase to £167.7bn. However, it is forecast that NICs would bring in revenue of £172.3bn in 2022/23 – more than enough to cover the cost.
Introducing the Wellbeing Pension could also provide a further boost to the economy through additional spending and taxation. When pensioners who had previously been the worst off gain disposable income, they are more likely to spend it in their local area, thus boosting local economies.
Those who are interested in the work of Believe in Scotland may also be interested to know how an independent Scotland could reform pensions. Scotland’s estimated population share from NIC revenue is around £13.9bn in 2022/23. Introducing a Wellbeing Pension would increase pensions spending to £13.3bn, meaning that implementing such a policy would be possible at little extra cost to the Scottish Government, even if Scotland was no longer part of the UK.
Join the Wellbeing Pension Campaign
Believe in Scotland is fully supporting the Wellbeing Pension Campaign. To date, we have distributed to our affiliated Yes Groups, campaigners and activists with more than 60,000 leaflets and other campaign materials in support of the Wellbeing Pension. In his newsletter for the National last week, BiS founder Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp explained why the UK needs to adopt a fair pension for all, with this policy being a great example of what’s possible when wellbeing is put at the heart of political and economic decision making.
The official Wellbeing Pension Campaign is lobbying the UK Government to adopt a state pension of £235.00 per week for all pensioners. The campaign website also includes a petition, which BiS encourages all of its readers and followers to sign. Given the UK Government’s reluctance to address the glaring issue of pensioner poverty, we are also actively lobbying the Scottish Government to make the Wellbeing Pension part of their prospectus for independence.
We think that this campaign needs to reach as many people as possible – the more followers on social media, the more eyes are on the campaign. The greater number of people signing the petition, the greater impact the campaign can have! You can follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and most importantly, sign the petition here!