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 savings, 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.
Benefits for the over-65s
If you are over 65 and need care, you may be eligible for attendance allowance.
This is paid at two rates depending on how often you need care. The lower rate is £58.70 a week. You get this if you need frequent care throughout the day or night. The higher rate is £87.65 a week. You get this if you need frequent care throughout the day and night or if you are terminally ill.
You must normally have been ill for six months (unless you are terminally ill) before you can get attendance allowance.
To claim you must be both physically or mentally disabled, in receipt of the state pension, or older than the current state pension age.
Other benefits you get can increase if you get Attendance Allowance.
You do not have to have someone caring for you in order to claim. Phone the attendance allowance helpline for a claim form on 0800 731 0122.
Annual flu jab
The flu jab is free every winter once you reach the age of 65. You don't need a GP referral for free flu jabs in pharmacies and the injections are usually available between September and February.
For a long time, all over-75s have been eligible for a free TV licence. You must apply for this, it is not automatic. You'll need to provide your date of birth, address, current
TV licence number and your national insurance number (or a photocopy of your passport, driving licence or birth certificate). If you share your house with someone younger than 75, you can still apply for a free licence but it must be in your name.
Be aware, however, the rules are changing. The free over 75 TV Licence will cover you as well as anyone you live with up until 31 May 2020. Then the government funded, free over 75 TV Licence scheme is being replaced, on 1 June 2020.
Under the new scheme, only households with someone aged 75 or over who is receiving pension credit will be eligible to apply for a free TV Licence, paid for by the BBC.
An application must be made in the name of the person receiving pension credit.
If you are not receiving pension credit in your name – or in your partner’s name if you are a couple – you will need to pay for your next TV Licence.
If you’re already 75, or will turn 75 before 1 June 2020, you can apply for a free TV Licence to cover you up until 31 May.
The website at tvlicensing.co.uk has more details.
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.
This article has been updated and was originally published on 1st April 2015.