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Out of work older Brits should be given early access to state pension

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People nearing state pension age but who are unable to work again should be given early access to the state pension, a charity suggests.

A ‘perfect storm’ is on the horizon for older workers in their 50s and 60s, as the coronavirus pandemic amid a backdrop of caring responsibilities, disability and long-term joblessness spells an uncertain future for the next generation of pensioners, according to charity Age UK.

More than 340,000 people aged 50-64 are now unemployed and with the short supply of vacancies, the pandemic could spell the end of their working lives.

With the state pension age currently at 66 and due to rise to 67, Age UK is calling for urgent government action to safeguard the financial futures of unemployed older workers who are facing a long and difficult wait for their state pension.

It is calling for early access to the state pension for those within three years of their state pension age who are unlikely to work again.

It also wants to see the age of eligibility for money benefits such as pension credit and housing benefit lowered to help older people struggling to manage on a low income.

Further, back-to-work support and access to training must be ramped up by the government to help unemployed or struggling older workers to find a way back into the workplace, Age UK suggests.

People spend an average of a third of their adult life in receipt of state pension but those on lower incomes are more reliant on the benefit and tend to have lower life expectancy.

‘Older workers face challenging and uncertain future’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s deeply worrying there are so many older people falling out of work and struggling to get back in. With the unemployment rate across all generations shooting up, we need urgent action from the government to help.

“The pandemic looks likely to cause lasting damage to the labour market, leaving many older workers unexpectedly facing a deeply challenging and uncertain future. Unless measures are brought in quickly to help them keep their jobs and to support those who lose them, it seems certain that hundreds of thousands will soon be staring prolonged unemployment and premature retirement in the face.

“Unless the government takes bold action, hundreds of thousands of older people could face a dire end to their working life and a long, painful road to retirement.”

Ian Browne, pension expert at Quilter, said: “Offering the flexibility to take state pension income earlier is consistent with the move toward greater freedom and choice over retirement lifestyle as heralded by pension freedoms.

“Obviously this will not be a choice that should be taken lightly and we would urge protective measures, such as a requirement to consult a financial adviser or Pensions Wise before exercising this option in order to provide adequate safeguards.”

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