Pension income issues have been prevalent for a number of years as large swathes of the retired population struggle to get by. This issue has recently been highlighted once again by Age UK, the UK’s leading charity for older people.
“Official figures show that a third of Asian older people (33 percent) and just under a third of Black older people (30 percent) in the UK live below the poverty line, compared to 16 percent of White older people.
“The over-85s, renters, and single, female pensioners, are also at greater risk of poverty than the older population as a whole. The total number of older people living in poverty in the UK now stands at 2.1 million.
“Despite these high numbers and recent government figures showing that nearly a million older people could not afford an unexpected bill of £200, nearly a million (920,000) pensioner households are missing out on pension credit payments worth up to £1.6billion every year – that’s an average of £32 a week, or over £1,600 a year, per recipient.”
Age UK went on to share the story of Pam, a 75 year old who contacted the charity for advice.
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Pam detailed: “I’ve had really bad periods when I can’t even open the bills, the letters. It’s been that bad, and I’ve had to wait for my daughter to come, and she’s had to go through everything. I was struggling financially a bit. I have a state pension and a small one through the county council. A lady from the Age UK Advice line said: ‘I can get someone to ring you to do a benefits check for you’. So then I got the call from a lady at Age UK Lincoln, she rang me to talk about it. I never dreamed at any point that with my income that I was actually entitled to any benefits. She did a benefits check for me and helped me fill the forms in.
“I now get attendance allowance and pension credit – which is an extra £51 a week, but it’s the other benefits that come with it too. I don’t pay council tax anymore – even with a quarter discount off, I was still paying about £1000 a year, which is a huge amount of money. And now I’m 75, I get my free TV licence. Without Age UK, I wouldn’t have known about any of that.
“Having the Age UK benefits check 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. When everything opened up last time, I had a chiropodist come to do my feet which I could never have afforded. 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. When those letters come, I just can’t; I just can’t deal with them, you know, and so as a result of the Age UK benefits check, it’s taken away any worries about anything.”
Len Goodman and Rustie Lee, two Age UK Ambassadors, supported the call for older people to find out if they’re entitled to pension credit.
Len said: “Older people are so resilient and tend to know how to make do, but it doesn’t have to be like that for those who are struggling to manage day-to-day bills.
“Pension Credit is a benefit for low-income pensioners to help cover the costs of later life. Lots of people don’t even know it exists, meaning almost a million older households are not getting the extra money they are entitled to. For those that have claimed, it can mean being able to stick the heating on for longer or having the money to buy essentials for their home to keep well and safe.
“That’s why I’m supporting Age UK efforts to raise more awareness about this benefit. There’s help out there and Age UK can support older people throughout the whole process – from information gathering to form filling. Please, I would urge anyone who’s watching the pennies to find out more and see if they can make a claim. Pension credit not only gives you more money each week, it can also be a gateway to other help too.”
Rustie also heeded this: “It’s so important for everyone who’s feeling the pinch at the moment to see if they might be entitled to claim some extra help. It’s just shocking that so many older people can’t afford the basics such as decent, healthy food or keeping their house nice and warm.
“Pension credit is a really important benefit that can make a big difference to older people on a budget, giving them a bit of extra cash to pay for things that most people take for granted. I’d urge any older person who is struggling to make ends meet at the moment to speak to Age UK to find out if they could be eligible for pension credit, it could make all the difference and open the door to lots of other financial support too. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by making a claim!”
Caroline Abrahams, a Charity Director at Age UK, concluded with similar calls.
She said: “The numbers of older people living in poverty have risen steadily in the last few years, so they now top two million. That’s a lot of older people worried sick about how they’ll cope if their heating or their cooker breaks down and needs replacing, more than the entire populations of Newcastle and Liverpool put together.
“It’s sad to realise that the burden of poverty in old age is falling disproportionately on Black and Asian older people in our society at the moment. For their sake and, indeed, for the sake of anyone forced to scrimp and save in their later years, we should do everything possible to raise their incomes, so they can enjoy the dignified and comfortable retirement they deserve.
“It’s deeply frustrating that the money is available to top up the incomes of pensioners who live on the lowest incomes but that much of it goes begging every year because many never claim what is rightfully theirs. We really do want older people to obtain their full entitlements, particularly pension credit because this can open the door to additional support – but that means putting in a claim.
“There are many reasons why older people don’t claim, including lack of awareness, worry about filling in long forms or disclosing personal information, feeling there is always someone worse off than they are, or being determined not to ask for help, even though in reality they badly need it.
“The great thing about pension credit is that it not only gives older people extra cash in their pocket, it can also open the door to other benefits such as a free TV licence for the over-75s, free NHS dental treatment, hospital transport, help with council tax and rent, and Cold Weather Payments. We’re urging anyone who is struggling financially to get in touch for a free benefits check – it could make a huge difference to the rest of their lives.”
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Finance Feed