(an article published in SPAG's April 2004 Newsletter)
Recently published figures show how the Government is doing in its efforts to persuade 2 million pensioner households to claim "pension credit" - the new name for income support. Before it was introduced last October, nearly 2 million pensioners were getting income support, either as single people or as married couples. About as many again are entitled to pension credit.
Getting all of them to claim, therefore, would mean a 100% increase in the number of recipients. The new figures show the actual increase for each parliamentary constituency, up to the end of January.
For the whole of Great Britain, the increase is only 14%. But, within that total, there are wide variations. Many constituencies show increases of 20% or more. Figures for the big cities - London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds - are much lower, under 10% in most cases.
For the three Southwark constituencies, the increase is 8% in North Southwark and Bermondsey, 7% in Camberwell and Peckham, and 7% in Dulwich and West Norwood - about half the national average. Many other London constituencies fared still worse, as the table below shows.
Why city areas seem to have done so badly is a mystery which calls for urgent investigation and remedial action. The figures suggest that about 10,000 pensioner households in Southwark alone may be missing out. As the introduction of the pension credit was the Government's excuse for refusing to raise the basic state pension to a more adequate level, effective action to ensure that it reaches those entitled to it is the least we can expect.
Bottom of the pile
The following London parliamentary constituencies had less than 7% increase in take-up of pension credit between October 2003 and January 2004 (national average 14%)
City of London and Westminster 6%
Hampstead and Highgate 6%
Leyton and Wanstead 6%
Ealing North 5%
Ealing Southal 5%
Finchley and Golders Green 5%
Holborn and St Pancras 5%
Hornsey and Wood Green 5%
Ilford South 5%
Islington South and Finsbury 5%
Brent North 6%
Brent South 5%
Brent East 4%
Regents Park and Kensington North 4%
East Ham 4%
West Ham 4%
Hackney North & Stoke Newington 3%
Hackney South and Shoreditch 3%
Islington North 3%
Poplar & Canning Town 3%
Bethnal Green and Bow 2%
Source: Table deposited in House of Commons Library on 12 March 2004.