Press release

New measure of pensioner poverty announced

A new way of measuring older people’s quality of life will has been introduced by the Government today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new way of measuring older people’s quality of life will has been introduced by the Government today.

A ‘material deprivation’ indicator for pensioners will capture wider elements of everyday life many that people take for granted but are in fact key indications of older people’s experiences.

Pensions Minister, Steve Webb said:

Income is very important, which is why restoring the earnings link for the basic State Pension was one of the first things the Coalition did when it came to power. However, we want to be able to take a more rounded view. This new indicator raises important questions about how Government and wider third-sector organisations could go beyond the issue of income to help transform lives. This is early days, but we are piloting ways to help older people overcome social isolation.

The material deprivation indicator uses a set of goods, services and experiences to capture low standards of living and is designed to complement existing income-based measures.

It will be used, alongside existing income-based measures in the Households Below Average Income Report published in May 2010 using data for 2009/10. Child poverty has been measured in this way since 2004/5.

Figures show that there is only a small overlap in pensioners who are materially deprived and those on a low income, and 670,000 pensioners who are materially deprived do not have a low income.

Notes to Editors:

Steve Webb was speaking at an event with organisations interested in older people’s issues today (Monday 9 May).

The indicator uses a set of fifteen goods, services and experiences which are judged to be the best discriminators of deprivation - such as whether someone can replace a cooker, take a holiday away from home or go out socially at least once a month. The full selection of items was arrived at following independent academic research and involved engaging with older people about the items and way in which the questions were asked.

Older people are asked whether they have the items and if not, why, with their responses used to judge if they are materially deprived.

This will complement the existing income based measures of poverty. We will continue to publish low income indicators of poverty within the Households Below Average Income series.

The questions and follow up questions were first introduced in the Family Resources Survey in May 2008. Indicative results are available for 2008/09 (published here, 11 percent of pensioners (900,000) are materially deprived,16 percent of pensioners (1.3 million) are in low income,3 percent of pensioners (200,000) are both materially deprived and in low income.

Material deprivation questions and what percentage of pensioners have the items:

Question Percentage have the item
At least one filling meal a day 99%
Go out socially at least once a month 72%
See friends or family at least once a month 95%
Take a holiday away from home 60%
Able to replace cooker if it broke down 89%
Home kept in good state of repair 96%
Heating, electrics, plumbing and drains working 98%
Have a damp-free home 94%
Home kept adequately warm 96%
Able to pay regular bills 96%
Have a telephone to use, whenever needed 99%
Have access to car or taxi, whenever needed 90%
Have hair done or cut regularly 89%
Have a warm waterproof coat 98%
Able to pay an unexpected expense of £200 87%

Source: HBAI 2008/09

The Government’s Ageing Society Programme aims to create a positive cultural change of attitude towards both ageing and older people. Initiatives include:

  • Active at 60 Community Agents (launched in November 2010) - a peer role aimed to help people stay active and engaged as they enter later life. A £1million programme of small grants has been provided to kick-start local community groups in deprived areas.
  • The Active at 60 Smart Cards project is aimed at testing promoting engagement and activity of the over 60s in their local community by using smart card technology to give access to additional services using the existing 60+ travel concession card.
  • The Ageing Well project is designed to support local authorities to improve their services for older people by providing services that are designed to meet their needs and recognise the huge contribution that people in later life make to their local communities.
  • The Get Digital project brings computer technology to older people living in sheltered housing and designated rural areas to champion digital inclusiveness in communities.
  • The UK Advisory Forum on Ageing plays an active role in shaping the agenda, challenging assumptions and stereotypes. It provides opportunities to improve the way we engage, share good practice and to be inclusive.
Published 9 May 2011