Retirement to be scrapped in UK ?
'National Service for pensioners': Former benefits chief says retired people should do community work - and have pension docked if they refuse
- Former Benefits Agency chief Lord Bichard says older people must stop being a 'negative burden' on the state
- Pensions 'should be linked to contributions to the community as an incentive for people to look after the "very old" '
- Campaigners condemn the idea as 'National Service for the over-60s' which they claim 'smacks of social engineering'
Lord Bichard, a former head of the Benefits Agency, said older people had to make 'a more positive contribution'.
But pensioner groups condemned the ‘absolutely outrageous’ idea which was likened to National Service for the elderly.
Pointing to sanctions on the unemployed who refuse to find a job, Lord Bichard said there should be ‘penalties’ if pensioners do not make a contribution to society.
The 65-year-old crossbench peer is a member of the Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change.
Taking evidence on the impact of an ageing population, Lord Bichard said: ‘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 said the pension system should 'incentivise' people to do more to help look after the 'very old'.
‘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.
‘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.'
A former Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, Lord Bichard was the top civil servant at the Department for Employment for six years until 2001 when he retired at the age of 54.
He went on to chair the 2004 inquiry into the Soham murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
Speaking in Parliament, he said the benefits system should be changed to encourage pensioners to not be a drain on the public purse.
But the idea provoked a furious response. 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.
‘We already have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe and one in five older people in Britain live below the poverty line.
‘Lord Bichard’s comments are also extremely divisive – trying to pitch younger people against older people, when the truth is that the real division in our society is between rich and poor. Frankly, Lord Bichard needs to think twice before making such silly and ill-informed remarks.’
Dr. 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.
'Lord Bichard’s suggestions smacks of social engineering of a dangerous kind.
'He seems to be suggesting that if you decide to stop working, even once you reach the age that society determines it is reasonable to stop, civil servants should assess you and decide whether you are fit to be assigned to do work that they decide you should do.'