One of the benefits he talks about is the over 60s bus pass, a scheme administered separately in Scotland (with a better and more generous conditions). If things get really tough, it might be something for Mr Swinney to look into.
There are always problems with means testing.
Firstly you have to rely on people being honest about their income and what they have in the bank. Not everyone does that, and checking it is difficult and expensive.
Secondly you have to decide a cut-off point. And with a bus pass there can be no sliding scale of entitlement, as there is with some other entitlements. At some point you are entitled to the pass, and 1p a week more and you are not. That has the potential to create a lot of trouble.
And thirdly, there is the cost of staffing the administration of the scheme in every town. It might be done at the same time as Council Tax rebates, but these rebates come stop at a very low level. People well under the poverty line pay full council tax. The limit would have to be set higher. And what about the people who do not pay council tax.
|Be thankful you don't have to heat this: Oh wait, you do.|
Getting out of the house is a big boost to older people, many of whom live alone and don't get anything like enough exercise or company. And, as I've said before, it substantially reduces winter heating bills.
I've heard some better off people complain that it is a waste of money to give them these benefits. They don't need them. Unfortunately, that said, a lot of them just accept them.
So, I'm getting behind the SAGA campaign in appealing to people who get a bonus around Christmas to donate it to a charity that will help other people, not so fortunate, to pay their fuel bills this winter. And at the same time I'll appeal to rich pensioners not to use the free bus pass if they can afford the ticket. Every ticket issued costs the government (you and me) money.
Finally, I'd suggest that we investigate the effects of raising the threshold of these benefits which currently start at the age of 60, following the increase in the female pension age, and/or issuing them only to those who have actually retired. At the moment there are people going to work every day using their bus pass! If it saves substantial sums, maybe we should do that.