Australian minister Jenny Macklin has claimed that the British government has reopened a dialogue with Australia regarding the controversial ‘frozen pensions’ policy.
Ms Macklin is the minister for families, community services and indigenous affairs in Australia and met with Iain Duncan Smith last Thursday to discuss the issue. She claims that Duncan Smith promised her a commitment by the British government to resolve the matter in which she hopes that the policy is scrapped.
The previous policy has ensured that around half a million British expat pensioners across the globe have not had their pensions increased in relation to inflation since their move abroad. Approximately half of that number lives in Australia.
The Australian government spends over seventy million pounds a year in providing means-tested assistance for most of those pensioners to just get by. Macklin also stated that Duncan Smith would open a dialogue with these pensioners who have borne the brunt of the current policy and would seek alternative methods in resolving the issue.
“All UK pensioners paid into the National Insurance Fund under the same rules, in good faith, and the Australian government believes they should be paid their pensions under the same conditions no matter where they now live,” she said.
“I made my feelings on this issue clear to my UK counterpart. He's now agreed to look at the options that have been proposed by UK pensioners in Australia – it’s a positive step forward on an important issue."
Alternative options that have been suggested include ‘defrosting’ expats pensions in annual stages starting with parity for pensioners over the age of 85.
However, the official word from the Department of Work and Pensions is that there are “no plans” in place to change the current policy. A spokesman for the Department said, “We will continue to speak to officials as part of a wider commitment to exchange views on a range of policies. The Government has no plans to change its current arrangements for uprating pensions paid abroad.”