The Government is set to make changes to the retirement age, which will affect when older people in the country will be able to access this “freebie” benefit, as well as their state pension. In England, people become eligible for the free bus pass when they reach the state pension age of 66 years old. It is important to note that there are different rules regarding this benefit across the UK with residents in Scotland and Wales getting free bus travel once they turn 60.
According to current Government proposals, the state pension age will rise from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028.
On top of this, the state pension age threshold for this benefit is expected to be hiked to 68 years of age in 2048.
Following this state pension age change, millions of people who otherwise would have been eligible for the free bus pass when they turned 66 will now have to wait even longer.
However, these Government proposals are subject to change and depend on how life expectancy data shifts in the coming years.
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In England, older residents are only eligible for the free bus pass once they reach the state pension age.
For many people, this has proven to be a sticking point due to Scotland and Wales having lower age thresholds for accessing this vital travel support.
Outside of Scotland and Wales, the London Freedom Pass provides concessionary travel for the city’s older residents which are not accessible for their counterparts in other parts of the country.
Anyone who is eligible for the free bus pass in England can apply via the Government’s website.
According to research carried out by Just Group, “freebie benefits” such as the bus pass, free prescriptions, Winter Fuel Payments and the free TV licence only cost taxpayers between £2.08 and £18.03 per week each.
In comparison, Pension Credit is worth over £59 a week and gives claimants a top-up weekly of £177.10.
However, a survey by Just Group found that around one in five pensioners did not know about Pension Credit, despite it being the main benefit created for pensioners who are struggling on low incomes.
Stephen Lowe, the group communications director at Just Group, explained why the prevalence of “freebie” benefits, such as the free bus pass,
Mr Lowe said: “The social and cultural reference to ‘freebie’ benefits means nearly all over 65s know about them but their financial value is dwarfed by other benefits which are less well known.
“The state pension alone will not provide a comfortable standard of living so checking your entitlement for other state benefits should be as much a part of planning for retirement as understanding what your private pension and other savings will provide.”
Pensioners are encouraged to apply for any financial support they are eligible for, whether it be the free bus pass or Pension Credit, as soon as possible.