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 1792.

    what a prat. How about the government sort out the large companies who avoid paying proper corporation tax? I am talking about eBay, Ikea, Starbucks etc., who pay around 0.1%! claiming you employ british people who they themselves pay tax is about as valid as me saying "i'm not going to pay tax because I bought a car from someone who pays tax".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1791.

    I note that Bichard gets £300 daily attendance allowance and travelling expenses when he attends the Lords. This is on top of his pension and any other earning. £300 A DAY! And he has the AUDACITY to want pensionerss on £6000 A YEAR to work. Sack the lot of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1790.

    With a pension like his i'm sure it's easy for him to say. This just again shows how detached these people are from real life! More to the point if there are thousands of people working for free why would companies pay others to work for them? there are few jobs going as it is! At this rate in 2020 we'll all be working for free!

  • Comment number 1789.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1788.

    As usual these suggestions come from those who have little need to worry about finance in their latter years. If we were all well off as Bichard then I am sure all of us 'crumblies' would be willing to do our bit by undertaking voluntary work. As it is something like 98% of the ageing population struggles to live on their pension and are working past retirement just to survive. GET REAL!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1787.

    More people who think we should all pull our socks up and get on with it! Stiff upper lip and all that. If you cannot manage a welfare budget effectively then give the job someone who can make £100 stretch further than you can ever imagine.A pensioner perhaps.The gas company just rang up with a projected direct debit of £100 a month up from £65pm and price hike, maybe voluntary work would help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1786.

    the elite rich boy Eaton educated oxbridge class really want everybody to be a slave on minimum wage to inflate their wealth and after 50 years of that it off to the euthanasia clinic or the work house because your a pleb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1785.

    Look at the man, all he needs is 2 horn's on the side of his head, a 6ft fork and dressed in BLUE.

    Remember this image at the next election.
    We really need to be rid of these parasites, these charlatan's need to be destroyed as a political influence, if there is anyone who actually agrees with this policy and want's to emigrate.
    Yes, please do.
    Leave, do not pass go and collect your £200 pounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1784.

    This is an interesting idea, but the important thing here (which the posts below seem to have ignored) is that the older members of our society have had an amazing deal. The baby boomers have effectively stolen from future generations by voting for politicians who have borrowed from the future to pay for services today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1783.

    For this callous idea to work then to make it fair the govt should pay back to every person who reaches retirement age EVERY PENNY taken as NI contributions and Income Tax +interest (they can keep the VAT payments made during purchases and Stamp Duty) then they can decide whether to stay in the UK or be bribed by this govt into staying! Then we could have a balanced debate. Deal or No Deal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1782.

    I can't see him volunteering for bum-wiping duties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1781.

    I think it's high time the British public, each and every single one of us, bought a specific mask and attended Downing Street...

    But of course, we will not, because we are too afraid, and above all else, too selfish to do what is right for everyone's future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1780.

    If that idiot Bichard wants to help reduce the cost of 'burdens on society' he can start by removing ALL expenses and payments to the duffers who reside in the House of Lords who should sit there voluntarily. Then remove ALL second home payments to ALL MP's they get paid a salary, that should be enough. Then align all MP pensions to that of the state pension - there you go, sorted, millions saved

  • rate this

    Comment number 1779.

    "someone earning £8k a year will, over 30 years, pay a lifetime total of £1,400 NI and no tax at all..entitle an annual state pension of £5,560 each year..No one see a problem with the maths here?
    ..your figures do not take into account the 20% VAT these people pay.."
    ..or the taxable profit which management may have made out of such exploitation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1778.

    Well, quite simply - Why not create an active Industrial Output Regeneration Plan - That will increase earned revenue Worldwide and thus reduce the debt.

    Get us out of Europe - Like many others - Stop creating National Unemployment/Reducing Earned Income - GET US BACK TO WORK FULL TIME - and Please STOP saying Employment is rising while output is falling - absolute Rubbish !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1777.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found out the pensioner who made it was a burden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1776.

    Surely the trick is to get people into paid work by getting the economy growing again? We have 2.5m unemployed.

    Get that figure down before battening down on the pensioners

  • rate this

    Comment number 1775.

    I am sick to death of hearing how the old are 'taking' from the young! Because we worked 40 years or more and have a decent pension we have been able to help all three of our children financially, as do many others we know. We didn't get into debt and help cause this crisis. Get the money from big business who are taking the 'mick',and sort out the bankers!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1774.

    At 65 I continue working by teaching Zumba Gold on a chair in residential homes then, because, I am deemed to earn £43 a week, I am not entitled to any pension credits!!! I would be entitled to about £125 a week if I didn't do this so why am I not entitled to the difference? if I give this up to get pension credit then everyone loses out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1773.

    So if retired people are looking after the very old what will become of the younger people who do this for a living?. Will they then become unemployed and be claiming benefits?. Its getting near to the end of the month so I take it this peer feels the need to justify his wages and has come out with this nonesense.


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