Should wealthy pensioners hand back their bus passes?


Should wealthy pensioners hand back their bus passes?

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has urged wealthy pensioners to hand back universal benefits such as free bus passes if they can afford to live without them.

In an interview with the Telegraph, he said that he "would encourage" older people who can pay for their own bus travel, heating bills and television licences to return these universal benefits to the state.

Although he has previously called these universal payments an "anomaly", the told the Telegraph that there are "no plans to change" the current system.

However, he said: "It's up to them, if they don't want it, to hand it back. I would encourage everybody who reads the Telegraph and doesn't need it, to hand it back."

At present, concessionary bus travel becomes available to everyone at state pension age, although the concessions offered vary across the country.

Sky News reports that back in 2010, David Cameron promised to protect universal payment for the whole term of Parliament, and has resisted calls to change it. However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that the payments are hard to justify and the Liberal Democrats have proposed a review of the system, and for them to be taxed.

Free or concessionary bus travel is a valuable benefit to many pensioners - for many it's their only form of transport. However, a new report by Age UK indicates that as many as one in five older people worry about being hurt while traveling by bus.

The Express reports that one in 20 over-65s said they had fallen on a bus, with 28 per cent of these blaming the driver for pulling away before they could reach a seat and 17 per cent saying that the bus was going too fast. A quarter complained that they fell when the bus stopped suddenly and the same amount had tripped over bags left in aisles. Of those who had fallen 18 per cent needed medical attention and 10 per cent had to go to hospital.

Stephen Morris, deputy chief executive of Bus Users UK, told the Express: "A lot of work has been done training drivers to drive in a safer manner for passengers.

"It means less hard accelerating and braking and gentler cornering, as well as being aware that elderly passengers should be seated before the bus pulls away from a stop."

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