By Holly Watt
Almost a third of British pensioners face poverty, the same level as that found in Lithuania, according to European Union statistics. Pensioner poverty in Britain is more than a third higher than the European average.
Pensioners, many of who rely on income from savings accounts, have been particularly badly hit by sharp falls in interest rates. Stock market falls have also reduced the value of pension schemes.
The figures have been seized upon by charities representing the elderly who are campaigning for the state to offer more assistance to poorer pensioners. Poverty is officially defined as those with an income of less than sixty percent of the national average.
According to Eurostat, 30 % of British pensioners are in this category compared to 33% in Latvia and Estonia, 23 % in Greece, 19% in Romania, 18 % in Bulgaria, 17 % in Germany, 10% in France and the Netherlands, 5 % in the Czech Republic. Only Cyprus has higher levels of pensioner poverty.
Recent research conducted by the charities showed that one in five people aged 60 and over are skipping meals to save money on food, while two fifths are cutting back on socialising, electricity and gas.
Pensioners on low incomes face a higher than average inflation rate and struggle to afford basic household essential items such as food and electricity, which have risen sharply in price. Rises in council tax have also hit pensioners particularly hard.
Ros Altmann, a former Downing Street adviser, said that pensioners had been hit hard by the recession and were “the silent victims of policies designed to bail out banks”.
“The financial crisis has already had and will continue to have a very negative impact on pensioners and will worsen pensioner poverty. Policy for the crisis – including bringing down interest rates – has almost entirely ignored the plight of older people, indeed aggressive interest rate cuts are little different from cutting the state pension,” said Dr Altmann.
The recently released European figures also showed that 23 per cent of British children were facing poverty, compared to a European average of 19 per cent. Among the whole UK population, 19 per cent are facing poverty, 3 per cent higher than the European average.