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Pensioners' lost millions
By Sally West, Income Policy Officer at Age Concern England, BBC News
September 3, 2003
are missing out on millions of pounds worth of state help. Sally West, Age
Concern's policy expert, offers some help to those who want to get their
hands on the cash.
older people look forward to a comfortable retirement. A lack of cash can
sometimes make the reality very different.
poverty is now at crisis levels and two million pensioners live below the
government's poverty line. Many older people find it difficult to cover
day-to-day living costs, never mind luxuries.
the good news is that many pensioners could boost their income by claiming
month, when the Pension Credit is introduced, half of all pensioners will
be entitled to a cash top-up.
just the complexity of the different benefits and a lack of awareness
which sometimes stops the cash from reaching older people's pockets.
are more likely than anyone else to miss out on benefits. Each year
hundreds of millions of pounds in benefits cash lies unclaimed.
main benefits older people should check their entitlement to are:
Also known as Income Support and about to be
replaced by the Pension Credit, MIG helps with weekly basic living
expenses by increasing your income to a minimum level set by the
It tops single people up to a minimum of £102.10
and couples to £155.80.The levels can be higher in some circumstances -
for example for some disabled people and carers.
You do not need to have paid National Insurance
(NI) contributions to qualify but the your income and any savings and
capital over a certain level into account are taken into account.
The Pension Credit will go a step further and
provide extra cash for people aged 65 and over who have made moderate
savings for retirement and currently don't qualify for MIG.
Many older people who now receive MIG will get
extra money while others will qualify for the first time. Like MIG it is
based on income and savings although there is no specific savings limit.
Currently up to 670,000 eligible older people are
not claiming MIG, resulting in up to £820m remaining unclaimed every
If you are already getting MIG you will not need to
make a claim for the Pension Credit. You will automatically be
If you do not receive MIG then you will need to
claim. You can get a claim form from your local social security office or
by calling the Pension Credit Information Line on 0800 99 12 34.
Age Concern factsheet 18 offers information about
money benefits including MIG/Pension Credit and factsheet 48 has more
facts and figures about the Pension Credit.
Many older people find council tax a major drain on
their income. Council Tax Benefit, which can reduce your bill, is the
benefit pensioners are most likely to miss out on.
It can be claimed by homeowners as well as tenants
- the value of your home is not taken into account.
Housing Benefit helps with rent, certain service
charges and, in Northern Ireland, with general rates.
These benefits are based on your income and savings
and in general you must have no more than £16,000 in savings.
Some of the savings rules will change when Pension
Credit is introduced. Other factors such as people in your family, whether
you are disabled, and the level of your rent and council tax may affect
When Pension Credit is introduced, Housing Benefit
and Council Tax Benefit rules for older people will become more generous
and many, particularly those over the age of 65, will receive extra help,
or become entitled for the first time.
Currently up to 1.4m eligible older people miss out
on Council Tax Benefit, resulting in up to £580m remaining unclaimed each
year The average amount unclaimed is £7.50 a week, or £390 a year.
Up to 270,000 eligible older people are not
claiming Housing Benefit, resulting in up to £400m remaining unclaimed
If you apply for MIG/Pension Credit you should be
asked if you wish to claim these benefits as well, otherwise contact your
local authority. Age Concern's factsheet 17 also gives information about
Housing and Council Tax Benefit.
People aged 65 and over who are physically or
mentally ill or disabled can get extra cash to help with the extra costs
of disability through Attendance Allowance.
It is for people who need help with personal care.
If you receive it you choose how you spend it. Attendance Allowance is not
related to income or savings and is paid at two different rates: £38.30
if you need help in the day or night and £57.20 if you need help during
There is no upper age limit but if you are under
65, you should apply for Disability Living Allowance instead - this can
provide extra money for people with care and/or mobility needs.
Age Concern's factsheet 34 gives more information
about Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. To get a claim
pack ring 0800 88 22 00.
for Work and Pensions (DWP): you
can go to its website (see link on right) to download claim forms for some
benefits, obtain leaflets, publications and other information including
details of your social security office. The Pension Credit Information
Line is 0800 99 12 34.
Concern: most areas have a local Age Concern
which may provide benefits information. Alternatively you can get free
factsheets from Age Concern's Information Line on freephone 0800 00 99 66
or from its website (see link on right). Age Concern also publishes a
range of finance-related publications including Your Rights which are
available from 0870 44 22 044.
Advice Bureaux: these provide advice and
information on all kinds of subjects. Find your nearest in the phone book
Authority/Council: you will
find the address of your local authority in the phone book under the name
of your county, unitary authority, metropolitan or London borough, or ask
at your local library.