The House of Lords report, Tackling Intergenerational Fairness, is a strange document. Most of it – six chapters out of seven – is a sober, well-documented account of demographic shifts in the pattern of disadvantage. When it comes to policy, however, there is a serious disconnect. There’s precious little about policies to remedy disadvantage within the older population – Pension Credit hardly gets a look-in, Housing Benefit (due to be shifted into PC) disappears, social care is punted into the long grass while waiting for a different report.
What there is an attack on policies that benefit old people: the report tilts at National Insurance, benefits for pensioners and universal provision, suggesting cuts for all of them. Winter Fuel Payment is attacked, foolishly, because it doesn’t do much about fuel (a category mistake: as I’ve previously argued in this blog, we mustn’t get confused between the title of a benefit and the purpose it serves). The welfare state, Alan Walker once commented, is largely a welfare state for older people, and the apparent premise behind the recommendations of this report is that the answer to that imbalance is to have a go at the welfare state. It might be more constructive to think about how the benefits of secure, solidaristic benefits might be extended to younger people and people of working age.