Some pensioners will lose £70 a week, but Boris Johnson didn’t introduce the change

25th Feb 2020

Claim

Boris Johnson is taking £70 a week away from pensioners.

Conclusion

Some pensioners will lose £70 a week under reforms introduced in the 2007 Pensions Act. In May 2019 the number receiving this benefit was around 11,000.

A Facebook post that has been shared more than 1,000 times claims: “Boris Johnson is taking £70 per week away from pensioners. Meanwhile tax payers contribute £4m to subsidise food and drink in the houses of Parliament for MPs.”

Another, shared over 2,000 times, carries a picture of Boris Johnson and says “As a big thank you to the senior citizens who voted for me, I’m going to cut £70 per week from your state pension. The £70 per week allowance for adult dependents is being scrapped from April.”

It’s true that a benefit received by around 11,000 pensioners, which is worth up to £70 a week, is being abolished. But the law was passed under Labour over a decade ago. It’s accurate that the total cost of the indirect subsidy to both the House of Commons and Lords catering services is just under £4 million.

What benefit is being abolished?

From 6 April 2020, adult dependency increase (ADI) payments, which some get as part of their pension, will end. In May 2019 this was paid to just under 11,000 pensioners with financially dependent partners and was worth up to £70 a week  .

Abolishing ADI was not introduced by Mr Johnson, but was part of reforms set out in the Pensions Act 2007, signed into law under Labour.

ADI payments are paid in addition to the state pension, to people with partners who are financially dependent on them, and who are often not yet of pension age.

The payments originated in the post-war period, when households with single breadwinners were more usual. The Pensions Act 2007 abolished these payments, and since 6 April 2010 no new claims have been accepted for the payment. Those already in receipt of the money were given another 10 years of the scheme, before it finishes on 6 April 2020.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed to us that there were 10,817 people in receipt of ADI payments in May 2019 worth up to £70 a week.

Will those pensioners lose £70 a week?

A DWP spokesperson said that once ADI payments end, those already in receipt of means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Pension Credit will receive an increase to off-set the loss, while those who do not receive benefits may become eligible to apply for them when they no longer receive ADI.

But there are reasons to believe that at least some pensioners who were in receipt of ADI payments may struggle to claim the money in other ways once the payments end.

From 15 May 2019, couples who aren’t both over the State Pension age cannot make a new claim for pension credit, unless one is receiving housing benefit for pensioners.

Changes to Universal Credit mean a couple where one person is below the State Pension age are considered working-age and will share a standard monthly allowance of £498.89. It can only be claimed if the younger partner is eligible.

Steve Webb, who was minister for pensions in the Coalition government from 2010 to 2015  and is a former Liberal Democrat MP, told Full Fact he was “deeply sceptical” that the loss of ADI payments would be offset with other benefits.

He said recent changes to pension credit mean any mixed-age couples who were not already receiving the payment “have little chance of claiming it when their income drops £70 a week”, while the Universal Credit rate is “so low” that that they may not “get much even if they qualified”.

However, it is not right to suggest all pensioners will be £70 per week worse off, given how few receive this benefit. 

How much is spent on catering in Parliament?

One of the Facebook posts also claims that “tax payers contribute £4 million to subside food and drink in the Houses of Parliament for MPs.” This is broadly accurate.

We have written before that Parliament’s catering services are not directly subsidised, but they do run at a loss and so public money is effectively spent to subsidise catering overall. (Although this catering is not exclusively for MPs: it is for all parliamentary staff, pass-holders and visitors. In addition to the 650 MPs, there are about 14,500 other pass-holders and an unknown number of visitors who can use the House of Commons catering facilities.)

In 2018/19, the House of Commons spent £2.6 million on catering and retail services, while the House of Lords spent £1.2 million, totalling £3.8 million.