Hands off Universal Benefits

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2014 National Retired Members Conference
1 January 2014

Conference opposes any attempts by Governments across the UK to cut universal benefits for older people such as the winter fuel payment, free bus pass, free prescriptions and free TV licences.

These benefits are essential to ensuring a decent standard of living and social inclusion for millions of pensioners who face daily poverty, fuel poverty and discrimination due to inadequate occupational and state pensions, as well as unequal access to public services including health and social care. They are essential to help keep older people independent and active.

Any reductions in these benefits will have an adverse affect on pensioners especially those who are already on the breadline.

Pensioners need the bus pass, free health prescriptions and winter fuel payment, why because the state pension is nowhere near a living income.


1. refutes the myth that all pensioners are wealthy. The reality is that the UK is ranked fourth out of 27 EU countries in relation to the risk of poverty amongst older people.

2. refutes the myth that pensioners are a burden on society. Research shows that the overall net contribution by older people to the UK economy is almost £40bn a year.

3. refutes the myth that means testing will help the neediest. All the evidence shows that means testing does not work for older people with over £5billion a year of means tested benefits going unclaimed, mostly by those who need them the most.

4. refutes the myth that older people have escaped the austerity measures. Over the past few years the Winter Fuel Payment has been reduced, personal tax allowances have been frozen; pensions have been indexed to a lower CPI measure of inflation (CPI); and the increase in the state pension age for women has been brought forward.

Conference calls on the National Retired Members Committee to work with the ‘Hands Off’ campaign’ in its struggle to defend universal benefits for older people. The ‘Hands Off’ campaign is currently backed by the Age Sector Platform in Northern Ireland, the National Pensioners’ Convention, the Welsh Senate of Older People and the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum.

Conference also calls on the National Retired Members Committee to work with all relevant UNISON structures to oppose any current and future attack on universal benefits to ensure that whichever government is in power is aware to keep their “hands off our universal benefits” and report back to 2015 Retired Members’ Conference.