Thursday, 25 July 2019

Free bus pass age to rise from 60 to state pension age

When I received my free bus pass 5 years ago it came at a opportune time as I had a recurrence of an illness which saw , me travelling between home and two hospitals on a regular basis and it saved me a great deal of money.
When the passes were first issued on a all Wales basis , I believe  Men received it at 65 and Women  at 60 a that was what the retirement age .
Fortunately for me it was equalised and both Men and Women received  their passes at 60.
Since then of course the 1995 Pensions Act increased the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 in order to equalise the age with men, with the change to be phased in over ten years from 2010 for women born between 1950 and 1955.This transition was later sped up by the 2011 Pensions Act.These changes came as a shock to many women who hadn't been aware of them. Some women discovered they would have to wait up to six years longer for their state pension which often affected their retirement plans. In 2015, WASPI was formed by five women to argue for the government to provide transitional payments to women born in the 1950s receiving their pension after the age of 60 They also call for compensation to women who now receive a state pension but had to wait longer.
So whereas the Welsh Government  had managed to make what was a unequal situation between  Mena and Women at the age they got their Buss Pass , the UK government managed to do it by rising the age of retirement for Women. Solving an unequal situation by making it worse for one section.
It did however mean that people now receive their bus pass 5 years before they reached retirement age.
I would argue that what we should have done is to have lowered the retirement age to 60 for everyone if they wished to do so or carrying on and receiving a higher pension at 65 or higher  and therefore increased the job opportunities for younger workers.
Though I wonder how many of those over 60 who use public transport are actually in full time employment.
However it will be a brave move to raise the age requirement as the Welsh Government has  proposed

The BBC report that
The age people become eligible for free bus passes in Wales is to rise from 60 to the state pension age under Welsh Government plans.Ministers are concerned at the rising cost of the pass, with 880,000 people expected to be eligible by 2021.
Transport Minister Ken Skates confirmed the move, to be introduced gradually, will be included in a proposed new law.
But the Older Person's Commissioner is concerned about the potential impact on the most vulnerable older people.
The state pension age for men and women is 65 and will rise to 67 by 2028.
Details of when the changes will be introduced remain sketchy. The pass, introduced in 2002, entitles users to free bus travel.
According to a recent consultation, pass-holders represent about 47% of bus journeys in Wales.
There were about 730,000 passes in circulation at the end of last year
Bus firms are reimbursed on the basis of an adult single fare, according to a White Paper published last year. Figures from 2016 show the cost of providing free bus travel up to then was in the region of £840m.
The White Paper that put the proposals to consultation said the cost to the public purse was "rising" and the Welsh Government "needs to consider ways of managing the rising costs without affecting the eligibility of those persons currently entitled to a concessionary pass".
It said the way reimbursement works was not an incentive for operators to keep fares low.
The consultation proposed introducing the change incrementally and in a way that means anyone who holds a pass at the time of the changes will be completely unaffected.
 In a statement to AMs, Mr Skates said the bill would "amend the eligibility for the mandatory concessionary fares scheme so that over time it will align with a person's state pension age".Older People's Commissioner Heléna Herklots said although details were limited, she was "concerned the changes could have a significant impact on many older people".
"Many bus services in Wales have been lost in recent years, with many more currently under threat, and a reduction in the number of users on less popular routes, many of whom will be older people, is likely to further exacerbate this," she said.
"More importantly, increasing the eligibility age will undoubtedly affect some of the most vulnerable older people in Wales, such as those living in poverty or near the poverty line, people who have given up work to care for loved ones and those living with long-term health conditions."
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We remain committed to the principles which have underpinned the scheme in Wales for more than a decade - providing older and disabled people, and more recently some veterans and service personnel, universal access to free bus travel anywhere in Wales on local scheduled bus services.
"Changes to the eligibility age will be phased in and we will ensure that universal entitlement is retained. Any person who holds a concessionary pass at the time the changes to the law are made will be completely unaffected."
Others who receive passes would be unaffected.

I imagine  m that this will a stealth increase and it will be done in such a way that  it will not be blatantly obvious.

Evert European country seem to be intent on raising the retirement age    as we live longer and are more active than previous generations.

But we should acknowledge that there is a difference, between an Office Worker and a Labourer working in to their late sixties, and this is the sort of debate we should be having.

Bearing in mind older people are more likely to vote it remains that it will be a brave move to rise the bus pas entitlement age and may not be very wise.