Rising living costs are causing hardship for pensioners with one in three older people admitting they are struggling financially, according to new research for Age UK.
With more than half (56 per cent) of those surveyed worried about even the most basic living costs such as buying food and keeping warm, Age UK Northamptonshire is stepping up its efforts to encourage older people in the county to claim their benefits.
Age UK’s new Let’s Talk Money campaign aims to get more money into the pockets of older people to help improve their quality of life.
With new findings for the charity showing that about a third of older people (32 per cent) are feeling financially worse off than this time last year, Age UK Northamptonshire is warning there are thousands of older people in the county who are in need of help but missing out on key benefits to which they are entitled such as pension credit, housing benefit, attendance allowance and help towards paying council tax.
The majority of pensioners live on low to modest fixed incomes and many have been hit hard by the rising cost of food and energy over the last year.
Yet as much as £5.5 billion in pensioner benefits still goes unclaimed every year – money which could make a huge difference to people’s weekly budgets and general wellbeing – often because they are unaware of the help that is available.
Common reasons given for missing out on benefits money include thinking they wouldn’t get enough to make it worth claiming, feeling too proud or embarrassed to put in a claim, or believing the claiming process is too complicated or intrusive.
Despite just under half of all pensioners being entitled to pension credit, a top up for those on low incomes, about a third of those eligible for the benefit are still missing out on an average of £1,716 a year – well over the cost of the average annual energy bill which currently stands at £1,271 a year.
Liam Condron, chief officer for Age UK Northamptonshire, said: “At a time when so many people are struggling financially we are working hard to make sure that vital benefits reach the poorest and most vulnerable older people in our society. This is money that could make a huge difference to their quality of life.
“We have helped thousands of older people put in a successful benefits claim over the last year but there is much more work to be done.
“People are constantly telling us how much difference the extra money makes, how surprised they are by how straightforward the process is with the help of an adviser, and how much less they worry about everyday bills.
“But there are still huge numbers of pensioners missing out and in need of help.
“We want any older person who is worried about money to contact us to find out if they could be entitled to some extra help.
“You can also call our national Age UK Advice line on 0800 1696565 for free information and advice or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney.”
Age UK has just published its newly updated ‘More money in your pocket’ booklet which is a handy guide to claiming benefits for people over state pension age.
To order the booklet call Age UK Advice free on 0800 1696565 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney, where you can also use the charity’s online benefits calculator to find out if you might be entitled to any extra support.
Top five myths preventing pensioners from claiming benefits:
I don’t think I’ll be eligible for pension credit
– Don’t rule yourself out. About two thirds of claims are successful and more than 2.5 million people across Britain receive it
I’ll get so little it’s not worth me claiming
– Even if you only get a little extra each month, receiving pension credit may open the door to you receiving help for other things such as rent, council tax or keeping your house warm.
I have some savings so I won’t get anything
– Having some savings or another pension doesn’t necessarily rule you out. In fact, if you’re aged 65 or over you might be entitled to extra money for having saved some money towards your retirement
I own my own home so I won’t get anything
– Owning your own home doesn’t rule you out. Nearly half of families who get pension credit own their own home
I’ve been turned down for pension credit before. It’s not worth it applying again
– Your circumstances could have changed and there’s been a change to how entitlement is worked out which means even more people could now be eligible. The first £10,000 of your savings will now be ignored when working out if you can get pension credit