Free bus pass and free prescriptions could be affected due to state pension age changes
Sadiq Khan quizzed by pensioner on future of free bus passes
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A free bus pass is just one of the entitlements older people can look forward to in their retirement, and it can significantly help with costs. Many people will choose the bus as a primary method of transportation, whether it is to attend appointments, do the weekly shop, or simply to just get out and about. The elimination of the cost can therefore be particularly valuable. However, amid changes to the state pension age, some people could see the entitlement they planned for changed. It is therefore important for Britons to pay attention to avoid being disappointed.
In most cases, people over the age of 60 will be able to secure free bus travel via an older person’s bus pass. But it it vital to note that each section of the UK has different rules on when someone can get their hands on the pass.
Those resident in Scotland or Northern Ireland can get the older person’s bus pass when reaching the age of 60. They will be able to apply through their devolved government’s website, where further details are included.
This is also the case for residents of Wales, where a bus pass can be received at 60. All these individuals will need to do is visit the gov.uk website where a postcode tool is available.
However, the crux of the matter lies with England, where the rules are different from the age of 60 some people will be expecting to receive their free bus pass entitlement.
If people enter their postcode on the free bus pass section of the Government website, they can apply for a bus pass and check if they can get one sooner. They will be redirected to their local council’s website for this very purpose.
The Government stipulates that in England, people will only be able to receive a bus pass for free travel when they reach state pension age.
Although this is currently set at 66 for most, it is not a static figure, and in the coming years, the state pension age is set to rise – which could have an impact for those waiting on their free bus pass.
Ultimately, it could mean some individuals will have to wait slightly longer in order to unlock their entitlement, and this could be frustrating.
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There are some exceptions to the rule, such as in London, where there are once again slightly different rules to consider when it comes to eligibility.
In the capital, the age at which residents can gain a free bus pass is 60. This is known as a Freedom Pass, and it isn’t just reserved for bus travel.
Instead, Londoners will be able to travel free on buses, tubes, the DLR and other forms of transport. However, it is only applicable to travel which occurs within the capital – and thus payments may apply elsewhere.
Those who could have to wait slightly longer for a free bus pass may want to keep an eye on their specific entitlement age to make a note of when they will be able to get the pass.
To assist with this matter, the Government has developed a tool which is called ‘Check your state pension age’, available online via its official website.
Here, it references that the state pension age is under review and may change in the future, but that individuals can keep working after they reach this age, as default or “forced” retirement no longer exists.
The tool can help Britons to check:
- When they will reach state pension age
- Their Pension Credit qualifying age
- When they will be eligible for free bus travel
However, it is not only the free bus pass entitlement which is set to be tied to state pension age, as proposals on changing the free prescription age are also being considered at present.
In devolved governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, free prescriptions are available to all at no charge on the NHS. But the rules once again differ in England.
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Per item, prescriptions cost £9.35, except for a number of groups who can get their prescriptions free. At present, this is the case for over 60s – but the entitlement may be under threat.
Proposals have suggested the free prescription age is aligned to the state pension age, meaning 66 and rising in the future. While the policy has not been confirmed, many are fearful about what this could mean.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “The age people get free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men so we are consulting on aligning the upper age exemption from prescription charges with the state pension age.
“We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.
“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.”
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