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Over 50s more likely to give up universal benefits if the funds used for health and care

10th October 2014 Print

Universal age related benefits form part of the social contract between the generations.  Contributions have been made throughout the working life of many older people and they now understandably expect support us in later life.  For many these benefits are seen as sacrosanct, and few over 50s would be willing to give them up.  However, a new poll published by Saga reveals that whilst many remain staunch supporters of universal benefits, the Saga generations are significantly more likely to consider agreeing to the loss of their age related benefits if they knew the money was going towards additional funding for health and social care.

The poll of 9,794 over 50s shows that the age related benefit most valued by the Saga Generations is free prescriptions.  Just 7% of respondents said that they would be willing to give up or pay tax on free prescriptions; however this figure more than doubled to 15% if they knew the funds would be ring-fenced to pay for health or social care. 

In contrast, a quarter of respondents would be willing to give up or pay tax on the Free TV licence and two in five (39%) would be willing to do so if the funds were ring-fenced. Similarly, 27% of respondents would be willing to give up their free bus pass and this figure increased to 38% if the funds were used to improve health and social care.  Perhaps understandably, those in the higher social grades (AB) were almost three times more likely to consider this (30%) compared to 13% of those in social grade DE. 

Saga’s director of communications Paul Green commented “Clearly nobody wants something they already have to be taken away from them, however our research shows that a significant minority would be willing to have some benefits taxed or be focussed on poorer pensioners.  Support for this has undoubtedly grown over the past year, and are more pronounced if they knew the money was ring-fenced for the NHS and elderly care.  It appears that the reality of the funding crisis in the nation’s social care system is dawning on many over Briton’s over 50s.  

“So while there remains a general distrust that the money will be spent wisely, if the funds were to be ring-fenced, the Saga Generations would be more likely to support changes to universal benefits.”