Making pensioners work for their state pension is insulting and impractical

Former top civil servant Lord Bichard has suggested that older people should be made to work in the community if they want their full state pension.

Forcing younger pensioners to look after older pensioners is a very strange idea indeed. Not only would it be an administrative nightmare, it smacks of rather frightening social engineering and undermines the whole concept of a national insurance retirement pension.

Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and, in fact, are the most likely to be charity and community volunteers. 

Many older people are also caring for others already, whether it is looking after grandchildren so that their own children can work, or caring for partners, parents, neighbours and friends. They play an enormously valuable role in society, but that is their personal decision, it should not be imposed on them by the government. 

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Work to earn your pension

Lord Bichard 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 will assign you to, otherwise you won't get your full pension.

The idea undermines the concept of "volunteering" altogether, because if you have to do it in order to get your full pension, it is just another kind of paid work. Only this time directed by the government!

And what about the practicalities? Who would police whether these new pensioners are fit enough to work, decide what kind of "volunteering" they will be forced to do, assess how much to take from their pensions if they are not well enough to do the work one day? And how often will they have to be reassessed to check on their health? With millions of pensioners, the mind boggles at the complexity and cost of administering these armies of elderly "volunteers".

Record number of people working beyond 65 already

There are already record numbers of people working beyond age 65. The abolition of the default retirement age is an excellent step to help people stay economically active and keep contributing to the labour market if they can and if they wish to. That will boost national income. And it is appropriate that society should encourage part-time work in later life. But, it should be individual choice, not as directed by the government, once people reach the age at which their pension starts.

We must not confuse the concept of a state pension, with the concept of volunteering. Our National Insurance system is based on a contract that says, once you reach a certain age, you will receive a level of support that you have contributed to during your working life. We can argue about the age at which this payment is made, we can debate the amounts paid, but we must not then attach other conditions of work to a "retirement" pension.

It is true that we have a crisis in social care and the country has not prepared adequately to look after an increasingly aging population, but the solution cannot possibly be to force people who are already older themselves to carry on working in a socially dictated manner. We will need to address the lack of preparation for elderly care at a national level, not invent a new form of "National Service" for pensioners that would entail intrusive, complex and costly administration.

This article was written for our sister publication Money Observer.

Your Comments

Post 50 is a second innings of life. We need to survive that period with our certain amount of savings. So, our approach towards the planning of savings must be transparent...

In 1970 there were some 3 million local and national civil servants .
In 2010 there were about 7 million administrators pushing paper.
When you consider that in that 40 years computerisation must have reduced the need for filing clerks, mail clerks, archivists and their supervisors by hundreds of thousands you can see that the local and national civil service is greatly overstaffed, probably thrice what they need.
What is the solution to this gross overstaffing?
Lord Bichard considers it to be producing a vast prod-nosing department checking millions of pensioners  to decide whether they are capable of continuing to work. This gives double points as Lord Bichard's proposal would also continue youth unemployment at a much higher level, thus producing even more work for administrators. Treble points as certain of our less savoury MPs will be able to award contracts to their pals' companies giving medicals every three/six months, and companies doing "training" schemes for youthful unemployed. 
All in all, a wonderful idea by Lord Bichard to keep a booming civil service growing.
On the other hand Lord Bichard could have suggested that all his friends in the Civil Service who retired at 60 shouldn't get their taxpayer funded index linked pensions until they reach 65, perhaps someone would explain why he didn't?

Lord Bichard is speaking from the protected position of an index linked pension paid early that he did not personally contribute too..He then dares to comment on the pensions of those who did have to pay,are not  index linked and have to wait until 65+ to collect. 
I would suggest he represents everything that is abhorrent with way UK society treats its aging population.  What next? Coupons for Digitas that are worth more if exercised early!!!

How about we let ATOS do the assessments? See how many more pensioners they can kill off before they actually get to retire after working hard all their lives, paying tax to have the distant time when they can actually look forward to not working or just look after their grandchildren extended by those who don't have to work another day because they already have millions in the bank and won't be subject to the same restrictions as those who probably won't be alive as long as they are because they don't have millions to pay for an easy life once they etire.
In case someone takes issue with this I was being sarastic. I don't believe that the retirement age should be extended because chances are a lot of people will end working themselves into their grave. Yes people are living longer, but the quality of life is lower. I agree that people should start paying in to pensions and shouldn't rely on just the state to pay when they retire. But this should be coupled with making it financially viable to contribute to private/additional pensions.
There needs to be a fairer system whereby people aren't working until they die, being made to pay for the mistakes of lack of foresight of previous generations and the mistakes bankers made which wiped off a significant portion of a lot of people's pensions forcing them to work when they should have been enjoying their well earned retirement.There is a reason why retirement age is set as it currently is - you can't work indefinitely in some fields. People may be living longer, but their physical and mental capabilites start going downhill. I would be sure to say there would be targets and whose to say that people would fail that test like they clearly do with the ATOS disability tests and told to work when they're not capable.