Field plans boost for the over-75s

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The Independent Online
PENSIONERS over 75 are likely to get an extra bonus to deal with poverty, Frank Field signalled yesterday, but the social security minister did not support a restoration of the link between pensions and earnings.

Mr Field, who is due receive a report on the review of pensions within days, will disappoint pensioners' campaigners, led by Baroness Castle, the veteran Labour peer, who are calling for all state pensions to be raised substantially. The increase in state pensions well above the inflation level for those aged over 75 will be a cheaper way of tackling hardship where poverty is greatest. "If you look at who are the poorest pensioners then in fact the older we get not only the frailer we get, the lower our income gets," Mr Field said.

Government sources also confirmed ministers were looking at special help for the over-75s. In the long term, there are signals ministers will seek to move most people on to compulsory top-up `stakeholder' pensions, requiring contributions of at least pounds 1-2 a week extra to increase the payout in retirement.

Mr Field yesterday also said on BBC On The Record that he and Harriet Harman received letters from Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, "telling both of us off" for personal clashes over the green paper on the reform of the welfare state.

Mr Field, who unveiled the document last week, yesterday said he believed it was "quite serious" to get a letter about the leaks from someone as senior as Mr Campbell.

"He certainly wasn't happy that briefing was going on and I think he had every right to say so and to write those letters," said Mr Field.

The reform package will help the Government to answer a warning yesterday by the independent think tank, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that in spite of efforts by the Blair government to tackle social inequality, the gap between rich and poor remained wide.

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