Lord Bichard: Retired people could do work for pensions

Lord Bichard Lord Bichard says fresh thinking is needed to help meet the cost of an ageing population

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Retired people could be encouraged to do community work such as caring for the "very old" or face losing some of their pension, a peer has suggested.

Lord Bichard, a former benefits chief, said "imaginative" ideas were needed to meet the cost of an ageing society.

And although such a move might be controversial, it would stop older people being a "burden on the state".

The peer is a member of a committee investigating demographic changes and their impact on public services.

The panel was told that the transfer of wealth from young to old in the UK was the highest in Europe.

Lord Bichard, a former head of the Benefits Agency and top civil servant at the Education Department, who is probably best known for chairing the 2004 inquiry into the Soham murders, said the debate on rising healthcare and pension costs needed to be broadened out.

"Are there ways in which we could use incentives to encourage older people, if not to be in full time work, to be making a contribution?," he asked the rest of the committee.

"It is quite possible, for example, to envisage a world where civil society is making a greater contribution to the care of the very old, and older people who are not very old could be making a useful contribution to civil society in that respect, if they were given some incentive or some recognition for doing so."

'Tuition fees'

The 65-year-old crossbench peer, who has taken on a number of roles including the vice presidency of the Local Government Association and the chairmanship of a national after-school film club since retiring from the civil service in 2001, suggested the government should use the pensions system to "incentivise" retired people.

Start Quote

The current generation are very heavy contributors to the public purse, whereas previous generations have benefited from the public purse”

End Quote Dr James Sefton Imperial College

"We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don't look for work you don't get benefits, so if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another maybe there is some penalty attached to that."

He asked: "Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?"

Prof Martin Weale, a member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, said the proposal was "outside the normal range of what is discussed", but added it was an "interesting point".

Asked about his suggestion after the meeting, Lord Bichard said it was a new idea but he intended to look into it further as part of his work for the committee.

He acknowledged it would be difficult for politicians to sell to the public, but added: "So was tuition fees."


Pensioners' rights campaigners reacted angrily to Lord Bichard's idea.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: "This amounts to little more than national service for the over 60s and is absolutely outrageous.

"Those who have paid their national insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way."

Michelle Mitchell, director general of the charity Age UK, said: "Older people are a hugely positive part of society - over a third of people aged between 65 and 74 volunteer, a percentage that only drops slightly for the over 75s.

"In addition, nearly a million older people provide unpaid care to family or friends saving the state millions of pounds."

She added that almost a third of working age parents rely on grandparents to provide childcare - and more than 900,000 people are working past the traditional retirement age "either because they want to or because they can't afford to retire".

But she added: "We must not forget that retirement is a vastly different experience depending on your personal circumstances. For example, 40% of all people over 65 have a serious longstanding illness and 1.7m of our pensioners live in poverty.

"For many of those, retirement can be an unrelenting struggle of trying to survive on a low income in poor health."

Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, said: "This is a very strange idea indeed. Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers."


Prof James Sefton, of Imperial College, London, a former adviser to the Treasury, told the committee young people were effectively subsidising the older generation - and he could not understand why they were not protesting about it.

"I think they should be angry. I think the deal they are getting is poor," he told the peers.

"There are a lot of transfers going on within the system, from the young towards the old and I think awareness of it is very poor and I think eventually it will come out."

He said research he was carrying out at Imperial College, with Dr David McCarthy, suggested "the current generation are very heavy contributors to the public purse, whereas previous generations have benefited from the public purse".

This was mostly down to high house prices, high youth unemployment, rising public debt and the cost of education, added Prof Sefton, who is also a quantitative analyst at UBS bank.

The older generation benefits from public funds, in the form of healthcare and pensions, but younger people have to rely more on "private transfers" of wealth, such as family money, to a far greater extent than in other European countries, he added.

Update 26 October 2012: Lord Bichard has asked us to clarify that he was floating an idea at the committee rather than making a firm proposal. This report has been slightly amended to take account of that.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1552.

    I also worked 50 years paying my way to look after people who worked hard before me, to enjoy their retirement. This person has no money worries i'm sure so it won't affect him. Do people of his wealth and stature live in the real world? when Graduates cannot find work how will 60+ people get jobs? get real Mr

  • rate this

    Comment number 1551.


    Bichard is no gentleman. He is a parasite

  • rate this

    Comment number 1550.

    There was always going to be somebody who came out and said this at some point. This Lord is just the first. In principle, he is right as the numbers don't add up to provide for all. Morally, given that we are forced by law to pay national insurance, this is outrageous. If national insurance contributions were abolished altogether and we were forced to save for our own retirement, this is faier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1549.

    It's time for the state to stop being a burden on the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1548.

    I see that "divide and rule" is working well here today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1547.

    It doesn't seem many years ago when we were advised that in future we might be able to retire in our 50's and enjoy more time with our families etc. Now retirement has become a dirty word. Why should I feel like a burden on society when all I want to do is enjoy my latter years after working for more than 40 years for the same company and my mind and body told me that I had to stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1546.

    Dear Lord Bichard,

    Make a well-known phrase or saying from these words:

    Head Boil Go Your

  • rate this

    Comment number 1545.

    41 years of paying taxes, local taxes, national insurance means fully paid up member of the state,not a burden. It is people like Lord Bichard who when in power mis managing our money which are a burden. Perhaps he should give all his wealth to the state, get off his backside in the House of Lords and spend his days living from hand to mouth like the majority of pensioners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1544.

    Dear Lord Bichard - wake up! I think you'll find that nearly every 'retired' person is involved in some form of voluntary work, including caring for grandchildren so the parents can work full-time.
    The implication that everyone who 'retires' from full time work stops contributing to the community is extremely offensive.
    Not to mention the fact that pensions are so poor they have to work anyway!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1543.

    why not get the layabouts who claim benefits all there days and contribute nothing to society to do these jobs and leave the elderly alone!
    they have already worked for it and paid there dues in tax and NI
    this shows how in touch these idiots are who govern us and there ad visors, how can they possibly know the struggles of the working class!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1542.

    I note that Lord Bichard is 65 and retired in 2001. I think that it is appalling that this ex civil servant (wages paid for by the taxpayer) was able to retire so early thanks to US (the taxpayer) and yet still wants to crack the whip on those that have contributed for many more years than him. Ironic and out of touch...rather like most of those "in power". We need to take back control...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1541.

    A government that imposes benefit cuts and wage freezes out of necessity. Yet refuses to freeze MP benefits and pay. That bangs the drum that we are all in it together, when we quite clearly are not. Democracy is meant to be "Government of the people, by the people and for the people". Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are clearly not representative "of the people", nor for the people. Change, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1540.

    What about donating unused organs, spare kidneys etc as theyll probably be popping their cloggs soon and wont be needing them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1539.

    In the decade 2040, I will hit retirement age.

    I do not think for a second that there will be a 'state pension'. I accept that. The welfare system today has to many to provide for. It ceased being a safety net (as it was only meant to be), and people live on it long term. We are all living longer, and less people of working age contribute. How can it ever provide for all??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1538.

    Absolute nonsense.
    If we made it mandatory for all public sector workers such as civil servants, judges, MPs, etc to retire at 65 there would be more jobs for the youngsters. Prescott wants to be a police commissioner at 75 and yet his reasoning was flawed at 60.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1537.

    Is he also talking about those workshy spongers who currently clog up the benefits system because people like him wouldn't do anything to actually get them working, cos I wouldn't want one of them to look after my kids and they definitely wouldn't do even light manual work cleaning up their housing estates cos it was them and their kids who ruined it in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 1536.

    Better diet, Health and Safety, and the de-industrialisation of the UK have led to us all living longer.
    My father worked for 30yrs in the printing trade and died of an industry related illness, 2yrs into retirement. I discussed with the doctors and a union rep, both stated that this was above average.
    I. like many others, intend to be a “professional granddad” for as long as I can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1535.

    "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" comes to mind.
    I wonder why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1534.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1533.

    This is the quality of the House of Lords! Scary! And this man was high and mighty in the Civil Service. Also scary.


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