Outrage as former head of benefits agency Lord Bichard says the retired should take up community service or have their pensions docked

Lord Bichard said older people had to make 'a more positive contribution' to reduce the burden they place on the state

The former head of the benefits agency provoked uproar today by suggesting the retired should be encouraged to undertake community service – or have their pensions docked.

Lord Bichard said older people had to make “a more positive contribution” to reduce the burden they place on the state.

He made the comments during a session of committee investigating the impact on public services of an ageing population.

Lord Bichard, 65, asked fellow members: “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 argued that the pension system should incentivise recipients to do more to help look after the “very old”.

He said: “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.”

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.”

Ros Altmann, the 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 retired from the civil service in 2001, when he stepped down as the Permanent Secretary of the Education Department.

A study four years ago concluded the average retirement income of former permanent secretaries was around £100,000 a year.