Are you struggling to make ends meet? You'll be surprised at the financial support on offer in the lead-up to retirement and beyond.
According to older people's charity, Age UK, nearly a million older people are just one big bill away from financial disaster, and two million pensioners are living in poverty.
That’s one in six. Despite this, the benefits targeted at older people are the most likely to go unclaimed.
Analysis of the most recent Government figures by another charity, Independent Age, found up to 1.3 million households are not claiming one of the most important benefits for the retired – pension credit.
Pension credit is an income-related benefit made up of two parts - guarantee credit and savings credit.
Guarantee credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £167.25 (for single people) or £255.25 (for couples). You may still be eligible if you have savngs, a pension or your own home.
Savings credit is extra money if you've got some savings or your income is higher than the basic state pension. It's only available to people who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016. You could get up to £13.73 extra per week if you're single or £15.35 if you're a couple.
Up to £3.5 billion in pension credit is left unclaimed every year – on average a significant £2,692 per family that could go towards essential bills.
According to Independent Age’s analysis, those missing out include 670,000 single women, at least 410,000 couples and up to 280,000 single men.
Other benefits that also go unclaimed by older people include housing benefit and council tax benefit.
David Samson, welfare benefits expert at the Turn2us benefits advice service, run by the Elizabeth Finn Trust, says that many pensioners are not aware of the financial support available to them.
“For example, they may be getting their state pension but not be aware that they are entitled to pension credit,” he says. “The rules for pension credit are more generous than the rules for working people, so they may have an entitlement that they don’t realise.”
"It’s important to get the message out there as we know that claiming the correct benefits can make a huge difference to quality of life."
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, adds: "Despite millions of older people struggling financially, around £3.5 billion in money benefits remains unclaimed every year when this extra income could make a huge difference to their lives.”
You may be able to claim guarantee credit if you reached state pension age. You have to have reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 to claim the savings credit part of pension credit.
If you’re a couple and one of you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, you may be able to claim. Government changes to pension credit last year could affect your entitlement, however.
Since 15 May 2019, mixed age couples – where one party of the couple is over pension credit qualifying age and the other under that age – are no longer be able to choose whether they claim universal credit or pension credit or pension age housing benefit.
Both parties of a couple will have to reach the pension credit qualifying age before they can be entitled to pension credit and/or pension age housing benefit.
The benefits that are on offer change as you get older - with some available to people as young as 50 years old.
Here is an overview of what you can claim in your 60s
Benefits in your 60s
Although most people born after 1950 won't be able to claim their state pension until their mid-60s, and many are expected to work up until that point, there are some benefits that are available from the age of 60. Here are some of the most important:
Free prescriptions and sight tests
Once you reach the age of 60, any medicine prescribed by a doctor is free anywhere in the UK. Until that age, prescriptions are free in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but those living in England pay £9.00 per prescription.
To get your free prescriptions, make sure you tell the chemist at the till and fill in the back of the prescription. You might have to show proof of age. From age 60 to 74 you will automatically receive an invitation every two years to be screened for bowel cancer, with an additional one-off bowel scope screening test from age of 55 for those who live in England.
Free bus travel
If you're living in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you can get free bus travel if you're over 60 - Scotland did consider raising the age from which you receive free bus travel, but this idea was scrapped. In Northern Ireland, you may get cheaper rates on other sorts of public transport, too.
If you live in England, you will have to wait longer for free bus travel. You can get a bus pass for free travel when you reach the female state pension age, whether you’re a man or a woman. You can tap in your details at gov.uk/apply-for-elderly-person-bus-pass to find out if you qualify.
If you live in London, you can travel free on buses, tubes and other transport when you're 60, but only within London.
To get a free bus pass you need to complete an application form from your local council in England and Wales, complete an application form from your local borough or council in London, and complete an application form from your local authority or from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport in Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, you can complete an application form from any manned Translink bus or rail station, by phoning 0845 600 0049 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, from the age of 60, you will be eligible to buy a Senior Persons Railcard from National Rail for travel across Great Britain, which gives you a third off all off-peak rail travel for a year for £30.
Visit Turn2us.org.uk for a benefits calculator or call the freephone helpline on 0808 802 2000.
Contact Ageuk.org.uk for advice specifically aimed at older people or call the freephone number 0800 169 2081.
Independent Age offers support to older people to allow them to remain living life on their own terms. Contact the charity at www.independentage.org or via the helpline on 0800 319 6789.
I am 61 not claiming any benefits
What will I be entitled to