Plans to increase the State Pension age in the UK would leave thousands of people at risk of falling into or living in poverty and into deteriorating health, analysis has found.
The State Pension age is currently 66 years old but will begin gradually increasing to 67 from April 2026.
But this increase is set to come amid a sustained rise in people out of work because of ill health, the Health Foundation has said today (9 October).
An additional 235,000 people aged between 53 and 62 years old – the first cohort to be affected by the increased State Pension age – were out of work due to ill health in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2020.
This marks a 34% increase, compared to a 2% rise in the same age group in the previous three-year period.
As a result of the increase to the age at which people can claim their State Pension, people who are out of work due to ill health will be left on Universal Credit for a year longer, rather than becoming eligible for Pension Credit.
The change would leave them worse off, with single people unable to work due to poor health receiving £27 less per week than a single person on Pension Credit.
The Health Foundation’s analysis also found that people in some of the most deprived areas in the North East, East Midlands and Yorkshire are at particular risk.
In Blackpool, economic inactivity due to ill health is the highest in England, at 8.2% compared with a low 1.7% in Wokingham.
Assistant director at the Health Foundation, Dave Finch, said: ‘The government’s State Pension age policy fails to acknowledge the decline in the health and work prospects for people in their 50s and 60s in the UK, leaving thousands at risk of living in poverty for longer. Prolonging poverty for people nearing retirement risks further deterioration in their health and potentially greater government costs in the long run.’
He said the upcoming Autumn Statement presents a ‘critical opportunity’ for the Chancellor to introduce support for those groups nearing State Pension age.
‘The risk of spending longer in poverty can be reduced by providing the equivalent of Pension Credit support for people aged 66 years from April 2026, while increasing the scale and speed of access to employment support can better support those with long-term sickness back to work,’ he said.