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Age Bias: How government spending is skewed against the young

This report investigates government spending and age and finds that:

  • The gap in the amount of money the government spent on an older person compared to what it spent on a child has doubled over the past 19 years.
  • The government now spends around £20,800 on each pensioner and only £14,700 on each child – a £6,000 difference.
  • Since 2010/11, the research finds that although overall public expenditure has grown by 60% in real terms, reaching £850 billion in 2018/19, pensioners captured 30% of this growth throughout the period, rising by around £100 billion.
  • Twice as many children – 4.2 million – now living in poverty compared to older people, who have seen their generation’s poverty levels fall by around half.
  • The Triple Lock on the State Pension, introduced in 2010, and which rises by the higher of earnings, inflation or 2.5%, can explain much of the divergence in spending.
  • The government has spent 45% more on servicing public sector pension debt interest payments (£18 billion a year) over the previous four years than it spent on child benefit payments (£11.5 billion in 2018–19).
  • Pensioners have also benefited from the highest rate of growth in outpatient mental health treatment, receiving three times as much spending in 2018/19 compared to 2011/12, whereas spending on children rose by only 5.6% over the same period.