Campaigners continue fight for changes to policy that leaves African and Caribbean ‘returnees’ out of pocket.
SHORTCHANGED: British pensioners in the Caribbean and Africa could be missing out on vital retirement funds.
THE ALL Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) is calling for concerted action from Commonwealth heads of state to combat the UK’s ‘unfair’ policy on pensions for those who retire abroad.
Currently, half of the 1.2 million UK pensioners who have moved abroad have had their pensions frozen, meaning their monthly payments have remained at the amount they received at state retirement age – with no annual increase in line with inflation.
In other words, a 90-year-old who migrated at pension age gets just £43.60 per week, while a newly-retired pensioner is entitled to £113.10 under the current policy. Statistics suggest 95 per cent of those with frozen pensions live in Commonwealth countries. This policy, however, does not affect those who move to EU countries, the USA, Israel, Mauritius and the Philippines, as they have been exempted and will continue to get the increases which are applied to UK-based pensioners. It also does not affect those who migrate to Barbados, Bermuda and Jamaica in the Caribbean because of a special arrangement. The International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP), who is leading the campaign for change, has branded the policy “absurd”.
The group has rejected the Government’s argument that it is unable to pay inflation rate pensions to those who have migrated, pointing out that the treasury actually makes savings of £3,800 per year for every pensioner who leaves Britain, as they do not access services like the NHS.
Dave Morris from ICBP said: “It’s absurd that Britain is the only OEDC country (out of 34) that doesn’t uprate their pensions. Because we don’t live here the government thinks nobody cares about the issue. More than half a million people are affected and they all have friends and family here in the UK.”
ACTIVIST: Ellen Lebethe
Pensioner Ellen Lebethe, 76, who is originally from South Africa, said the current system is “simply unfair”. She is urging the high commissions of affected countries to join the campaign against the policy.
She said: “It is wrong that people who have left their countries in their youth and have spent their lives making valuable contributions to this country, having paid their taxes and their national insurance and contributed to pension schemes, are not able to retire back home without being penalised.”
Lebethe added: “Why should some qualify and some don’t? It’s ridiculous that I am from South Africa and if I want to return to my country to be with my family I will have my pensions frozen, whereas my neighbour who is from Jamaica will see hers rise, the same as if she were living here.”
The fight, she stressed, should not be left to just the Australian and Canadian governments. She said: “All the high commissions representing those who are affected should join the campaign.”
Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley, who is part of the APPG on frozen pensions, urged the Commonwealth heads of government to meet to discuss the issue. He said: “We need to change the situation from wrong to right. It’s not a matter of how, it’s a matter of when. The wrongness and injustice increases, and the issue needs to be put on the agenda of the Commonwealth Secretariat.”
But the secretariat has declined to comment, declaring that they “do not comment on policy-making in individual Commonwealth countries.”
A Department for Works and Pension spokesperson said: “The UK State Pension is payable worldwide but is only uprated abroad where we have a legal requirement or reciprocal agreement. This has always been the case and people who are considering emigrating abroad should always consider the impact the move could have on their future state pension entitlement.