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PENSIONERS in the UK are entitled to lots of benefits to help manage the cost of living in retirement.
Despite this, the government reports billions of pound worth of help going unclaimed – including £1.8billion worth of Pension Credit alone.
This means that older people in the UK are missing out on benefits worth thousands of pounds per person.
Research from Just Group found that over half of retirees are not claiming all the benefits they're entitled to, while 42% don't claim anything they qualify for at all.
Pensioner poverty is a big problem in the UK with 1.9 million living below the breadline, according to The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Recent research from Unbiased.co.uk found that 17% of over 55s have no private pension at all meaning they will be relying on state pensions.
While the state pension rises each year, this year it was worth a maximum of £179.60 a week, which is just over £9,350 a year.
Here we outline 12 benefits available to older people, including who qualifies and how to claim for them.
Here's everything you need to know.
1. Pension Credit
Pension Credit is a benefit for people over State Pension age that tops up your income if you're struggling to make ends meet.
MoneySavingExpert has said the benefit is worth up to £3,000 each year for a single person, but the latest government figures show £1.8bn goes unclaimed each year.
Pension Credit works by topping up your weekly income to guaranteed minimum amounts of £177.10 per week if you're single or £270.30 if you're in a couple.
You could get an extra £67.30 a week if you get any of the following:
- Attendance Allowance
- The middle or highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
You could get an extra £37.70 a week if:
- You get Carer’s Allowance
- You’ve claimed Carer’s Allowance but are not being paid because you already get another benefit paying a higher amount
- If you and your partner have both claimed or are getting Carer’s Allowance, you can both get this extra amount.
You can also get an extra £54.60 a week for each child or young person you’re responsible for. This is increased to £65.10 a week for the first child if they were born before 6 April 2017.
The child or young person must normally live with you and be under the age of 20. If they're between 16 and 20 they need to be in approved training or education.
If you are eligible for Pension Credit it's important to apply, as it triggers lots of other benefits including:
- Housing Benefit if you rent the property you live in
- Support for Mortgage Interest if you own the property you live in
- Council Tax Reduction
- A free TV licence if you’re aged 75 or over
- Help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments
- Help with your heating costs
How to apply for pension credit
YOU can start a pension credit application up to four months before you reach state pension age.
You can claim any time after you reach state pension age but your claim can only be backdated for three months.
To claim, you will need:
- your national insurance number
- information about your income, savings and investments
- your bank account details, if you’re applying by phone or by post
If you’re backdating your claim, you’ll need details of your income, savings and investments on the date you want your claim to start.
You can apply online via Gov.uk if you've already claimed your state pension or you're not responsible for children.
If not, you can apply by calling 0800 99 1234 or by printing out, completing and posting this online form.
There's an additional part to Pension Credit called savings credit, which you may also be entitled to.
You will qualify if both of the following apply:
- you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016
- you saved some money for retirement, for example a personal or workplace pension
You get up to £14.04 Savings Credit a week if you’re single. If you have a partner, you’ll get up to £15.71 a week.
You might still get some Savings Credit even if you do not get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit.
You apply for Savings Credit using the same process as Pension Credit.
You can get up to £67.60 per week if you care for someone at least 35 hoursand they get certain benefits.
You don't have to be related to, or live with, the person you care for, but you do not get paid extra if you look after more than one person.
If you're under the State Pension Age, you'll also get National Insurance Credits, which go towards your State Pension.
It's important to claim these, to make sure you have enough qualifying credits to get the full amount possible when you retire.
Carer’s Allowance can affect the other benefits that you get. It's worth noting that you have to pay tax on it if your income is over the Personal Allowance.
Before you apply make sure you have your NI number, bank or building society details, employment details and that you keep a note of any expenses.
You'll need to provide details for your partner as well if they live with you.
You also need details of the person you care for, including their:
- date of birth and address
- National Insurance number if they’re 16 or over
- Disability Living Allowance reference if they’re under 16
You can backdate your claim by up to three months.
The easiest way to claim is online via the government website.
When can I retire?
IF you’re wondering when you can retire, it’s best to speak to your pension providers.
Firstly, use the government's tool to check your state pension age.
Next check retirement ages on workplace pension schemes – Aviva says this can massively impact your windfall once you enter your golden years.
For advice, you can contact The Pensions Advisory Service for free online or on 0800 011 3797.
This benefit helps with costs if you have a severe disability and need someone to help look after you.
It’s paid at two different rates and how much you'll get depends on the level of care that you need.
To apply you need to be both over State Pension Age and either physically or mentally disabled.
You get £60 per week if you need frequent help or constant supervision during the day, or supervision at night.
You get a higher rate or £89.60 a week if you need help or supervision throughout both day and night, or if you’re terminally ill.
You need to apply by post and you can download an Attendance Allowance claim form here.
Help with NHS costs
If you're over 60 you will get free prescriptions and you're also entitled to free sight tests – but you'll need to let your optician know.
You can also get help with dental treatment, glasses or contact lenses costs, NHS wigs and transport to hospital if you're on a low income.
To get additional help you need to receive one of:
- The Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit (in some circumstances)
- Universal Credit (if you meet certain criteria).
To get the help with NHS costs, you need to show your benefit award letter to health care staff when you book or attend an appointment.
If you don't receive any of these benefits but are on a low income, you can also get help through the NHS low income support scheme.
To find out about the scheme and how to apply – read the NHS guide here.
How to watch TV legally without paying for a licence
YOU can legally use the following services without a TV Licence as long as you aren’t using them to watch or stream live TV:
- On demand TV – such as catch-up TV and on demand previews, which are available through services including ITV Player, All 4, My5, BT Vision/BT TV, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Now TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. You can't watch or download programmes on BBC iPlayer without a TV licence.
- On demand movies – from services such as Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
- Recorded films and programmes – either via DVD or Blu-ray, or downloaded from the internet.
- YouTube – Video clips that aren't live through services such as YouTube.
Free TV license
The rules on TV licenses have changed, meaning you no longer automatically get a free one when you're over 75.
Instead you need to be over 75 and meeting one of the following criteria:
- Getting pension credit
- Living with a partner who receives pension credit
You can apply for a free licence online or by phoning 0300 790 6071.
You can get a special license costing just £7.50 if you are in eligible residential care. You can also slash the bill by 50% if you are registered blind or live with someone who is.
Free bus pass and help with trains
In England, you can apply for a free bus pass once you reach the women's state pension age (currently 66).
Bear in mind that the state pension ages are rising, so the age at which you can get the bus pass will also rise too.
For instance, under current rules the State Pension Age will reach 67 by 2028.
In London, you can get a free bus pass from 60, which can be used on transport within the Capital.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland you can also get a bus pass when you reach 60.
You apply via your local council – which can be done online.
If you travel by train a lot, you can apply for a Senior Railcard.
This annual savings card costs £30 a year and will save you a third on your train tickets. You can cat cut costs further by getting a three-year card for £70.
National Rail estimates that people save £90 per year on average.
National Express also offers a Senior Coachcard for people who are 60 and over. It costs £12.50 and offers a third off your travel throughout the year.
Get help with urgent or one-off expenses
If you get Pension Credit and you have an emergency, you might be able to get a budgeting loan.
These advance payments are worth between £100 and £812 and can be used to pay for essential items like maintenance, improvements or security for your home, funeral costs or clothes, furniture or white goods.
The maximum amount you can get depends on your circumstances:
- £348 if you’re single
- £464 if you’re part of a couple
- £812 if you have children
You have to repay what you borrow within 104 weeks. It is usually deducted from your benefit payments until the loan is paid off.
You can online or using the paper form, but it's quickest via the government website.
Top tips to boost your pension pot
DON’T know where to start? Here are some tips from financial provider Aviva on how to get going.
- Understand where you start: Before you consider your plans for tomorrow, you'll need to understand where you stand today. Look into your current pension savings and research when you’ll be eligible for the state pension, and how much support you’ll receive.
- Take advantage of your workplace pension: All employers are legally required to provide a workplace pension. If you save, your employer will usually have to contribute too.
- Take advantage of online planning tools: Financial providers Aviva and Royal London have tools that give you an idea of what your retirement income will be based on how much you're saving.
- Find out if your workplace offers advice: Many employers offer sessions with financial advisers to help you plan for your future retirement.
Help with your council tax
If you receive the Guarantee part of Pension Credit you might get all of your council tax bill paid for in full.
However, council tax support rules vary depending on when you live so you need to check the rules with your local council.
Even if you don't get Pension Credit, you might be eligible for some support, particularly if you live alone, or if you're disabled, or if you have caring responsibilities.
To find out what you might get, you need to enter your postcode on the government website.
You can get help from the government paying your rent or mortgage if you're on a lower income.
For instance, if you're on Pension Credit and get the guaranteed element, you could get your full rent paid.
If you don't get Pension Credit but you're on low income, you may well still be eligible for help, but how much you get will depend on your income.
If you own your home, you won’t be eligible for Housing Benefit, but you could get support with your mortgage interest as part of Pension Credit instead.
You can either apply:
- through your local council
- as part of a Pension Credit claim, if you’re eligible for this.
Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payment
If you were born on or before September 26, 1955 you could get between £100 and £300 to help with your bills over winter.
To be eligible you need to have lived in the UK throughout the qualifying week for the financial year of 2021–2022, which is September 20–26 2021.
You will get your Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you are receiving your state pension or get benefits including Pension Credit.
If you qualify but don’t get paid automatically, you’ll need to make a claim. You can do this by calling the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160
Most payments are made automatically in November or December. You should get your money by March 31 2022.
You should also be eligible for the Cold Weather Payments, which are worth£25 each.
You get the money each time your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March.
If you’re eligible for Pension Credit or other income-related benefits you’ll get Cold Weather Payments too. There’s no need to apply, it will be paid automatically.
Warm homes discount scheme
If you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit and your supplier is part of the Warm homes discount scheme, you will get £140 automatically deducted from your heating bill.
If you’re on a low income but don't get Pension Credit, you may also be able to claim. You should get in touch with your electricity supplier for details.
Thousands of over-80s wrongly missing out on £82 a week state pension – how to claim.
Earlier this year it emerged that around 200,000 women had been undepaid their state pension for years and could be in line for an average payout of £13,500.
Martin Lewis' MoneySavingExpert also recently that warned millions of retirees are missing out on £3,000 a year in lost pension credit.
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