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University of Leicester Research on Pensioner Benefits Presented to Parliamentary Committee

May 2003

University of Leicester researchers are today (Wednesday, June 4) presenting policy messages from their research to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. The research is concerned with means-tested social security benefits for pensioners.

Evidence suggests that there are many poor pensioners who do not claim all the social security benefits to which they are entitled. Reasons for this may include the social stigma associated with benefit dependence, the ‘hassle’ involved in making a claim and the difficulty in getting information about eligibility.

Professors Ruth Hancock and Stephen Pudney will say that:

We need a seamless benefit system with a unified claim process and automatic consideration for all of the three main benefits - the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG), Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

Special efforts are needed to reach low-income owner-occupiers and private tenants, many of whom appear to have poorer access to information and advice about benefits.

Take-up is high where entitlements are large and low for small entitlements. Any policy change which increases the numbers of pensioners entitled to small amounts of benefit is likely to encounter take-up problems - a concern for the new Pension Credit, due to replace the MIG in October. 

With three overlapping means-tested pensioner benefits, take-up targets for individual benefits are not appropriate.

Stephen Pudney, Professor of Economics says:

“Research suggests that means-tested benefit income is
‘worth’ slightly less than other income because of social stigma or the hassle associated with claiming it. The big question is whether the new Pension Credit will, as the government intends, be more socially acceptable, widely understood and easier to claim than the present Minimum Income Guarantee.” 

The research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Notes:

1. The Work and Pensions Select Committee is chaired by Sir Archy Kirkwood, Liberal Democrat MP for Roxburgh.

2. The three main means-tested benefits for pensioners are the Minimum Income Guarantee, Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit. The Minimum Income Guarantee will be replaced by the Pension Credit in October.

3. The research project is directed by Professor Stephen Pudney, Department of Economics and Professor Ruth Hancock, Director if the Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit, both from the University of Leicester; and Holly Sutherland, Director of the Microsimulation Unit, Department of Applied Economics at the University of Cambridge.

4. Further details of the research are available at
http://www.le.ac.uk/economics/sep2/stigma.html

5. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under project grant R000239015.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT RUTH HANCOCK ON 0116 252 5422 (W); 0116 270 3202 (H); 07740 430723 (Mobile) OR STEPHEN PUDNEY ON 0116 252 2884.
(Please note they are not available on Wednesday June 4)

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Last updated: June 2003
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