- Former Benefits Agency chief Lord Bichard says older people must stop being a ‘negative burden’ on the state
- Pensions ‘should be linked to contributions to the community as an incentive for people to look after the “very old” ‘
- Campaigners condemn the idea as ‘National Service for the over-60s’ which they claim ‘smacks of social engineering’
The elderly should earn their pensions by doing voluntary work in their communities to avoid being a ‘burden on the state’, a retired mandarin has suggested.
Lord Bichard, formerly head of the Benefits Agency, made the controversial suggestion at a House of Lords discussion on how to meet the costs of Britain’s ageing population.
Last night his plans were branded ‘National Service for the over-60s’ by angry pensioner groups.
The cross-bench peer, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, retired from the civil service at just 53.
His taxpayer-funded pension is estimated to be £120,000 a year.
Lord Bichard, 65, drew a parallel between the workshy claiming unemployment benefits and retirees drawing their pensions.
He said: ‘We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don’t look for work you don’t get benefits.
So if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another, maybe there is some penalty attached to that.’
He called for ‘imaginative’ ideas such as making old people care for the very old.
Lord Bichard added: ‘Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?
‘It is quite possible, for example, to envisage a world where civil society is making a greater contribution to the care of the very old, and older people who are not very old could be making a useful contribution to civil society in that respect, if they were given some incentive or some recognition for doing so.’