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World 'I never dreamed I was entitled to benefits'

04:26  16 june  2021
04:26  16 june  2021 Source:   bbc.com

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" I never dreamed at any point that with my income that I was actually entitled to any benefits ," said Pam. Former pensions minister Ros Altman, who now sits in the House of Lords, said some pensioners were "too proud to claim", while others mistakenly thought the amounts available would be too small to bother. She added that many simply did not realised the added benefit entitlement that could be provided by claiming Pension Credit, which could add up to be worth thousands of pounds a year.

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Pam, aged 75, was so stricken by anxiety and depression that she was unable to open bills and letters that landed on her doormat.

a close up of a hand © Getty Images

She was receiving the state pension, and a small retirement income from the council, but nothing more.

It was only after an adviser from charity Age UK ran a benefits check for her that she realised she was entitled to support that knocked hundreds of pounds off her regular bills.

The gateway to that financial help was a claim for Pension Credit - a benefit which helps low-income pensioners with their living costs, but which is unclaimed by close to one million households.

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"I never dreamed at any point that with my income that I was actually entitled to any benefits," said Pam.

"It has made a huge difference to my life. With that little bit of extra money, it's enabled me to buy things that make my life easier. I've got a better shower chair - it's much safer.

"I don't worry so much about my bills now, and that is a huge thing when you suffer with depression, anxiety, and low mood sometimes."

Groups in need

Age UK said particular groups of people were at greater risk of finding themselves in a situation like Pam did in retirement.

Among two million pensioners in poverty, there are concerns that those with black or Asian backgrounds, the over-85s, renters, and single, female pensioners are over-represented.

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The charity said that 920,000 pensioner households were missing out on Pension Credit payments worth up to £1.6bn a year. On average, they could get £32 a week, or more than £1,600 a year.

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Age UK and the Department for Work and Pensions is urging people to claim, pointing out that it can open the door to other benefits. Pam, for example, no longer needs to pay council tax.

Minister for Pensions Guy Opperman said: "This is truly important work. DWP joining forces with Age UK, Len Goodman and Rustie Lee means we can reach those who may be reticent about claiming Pension Credit.

"Anyone can use the Department for Work and Pension's free online Pension Credit calculator to check eligibility and get an estimate of what they might receive. If the calculator shows you might be entitled, or even if you aren't sure, then I strongly urge you to make a claim - this can be easily done online or by freephone on 0800 99 1234."

Benefits with a link to Pension Credit include:

  • A free TV licence, if also aged over 75
  • Help with council tax
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • A cold weather payment of £25 when the temperature is 0C or below for seven days in a row
  • Help with rent
  • An extra payment within Pension Credit for carers, worth up to £37.70 a week

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was "deeply frustrating" that money was available to help pensioners on low incomes, which went unclaimed.

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Former pensions minister Ros Altman, who now sits in the House of Lords, said some pensioners were "too proud to claim", while others mistakenly thought the amounts available would be too small to bother.

She added that many simply did not realised the added benefit entitlement that could be provided by claiming Pension Credit, which could add up to be worth thousands of pounds a year.

"With millions of pensioners still living in poverty, it is clear there are barriers for older people to claim the benefits to which they are entitled," she said.

Charities such as Age UK and Citizens Advice can help those who believe they have a claim. One system of Pension Credit operates in England, Wales and Scotland, with a similar scheme in place in Northern Ireland.

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This is interesting!