A Kent lawyer has warned pensioners in the county they could be missing out on thousands of pounds in state benefits.
Recent data from the Government reveals that around one million eligible UK households are missing out on pension credit*, an underclaimed state benefit that can boost the average pensioner’s yearly income by around £3,000.
Pension Credit is extra money for pensioners to bring their weekly income up to a minimum amount if they earn less than £177.10/week as a single person or £270.30/week as a couple. Around 1.47 million people claim pension credit, with a further one million households estimated to be eligible but not currently claiming.
James Simpson, a Solicitor with Kent law firm Furley Page’s Elderly and Vulnerable Client Team, said: “The welfare benefit landscape has changed significantly in recent years, affecting claimants of all ages, and older individuals are no exception. The system is complex, which causes confusion about the benefits that elderly people are entitled to, with the result that many often miss out on support like Pension Credit that could make a big difference to their quality of life.”
“In addition to the extra income, Pension Credit can act as a gateway to other support options, such as council tax support schemes and old-style housing benefit, so it’s essential that pensioners check their entitlement to make sure they aren’t missing out on financial benefits**.”
Pensioners are entitled to a wide range of benefits, including the following:
State pension (SP)
The government offers an online service to check entitlement ages and it is now possible to make a claim online at up to four months prior to your SP age date, whether the letter is to hand or not. If the date has already passed, it is still possible to make a claim and payments can be backdated to the date the person reached entitlement age. In 2021-22, the maximum rate of new SP is £179.60 per week.
Attendance allowance (AA)
AA is a non-means-tested benefit for those who have care needs and are over SP age. A person can claim AA where they have a physical or mental disability (or both), require help or supervision, and have needed such for at least six months. The main purpose of AA is to help the recipient stay independent in their home, although the funds do not necessarily need to be spent on their care. There are two rates of AA: the lower (currently £60 per week) and the higher rate (currently £89.60).
Personal independence payment and disability living allowance
PIP is a non-means-tested benefit for those who have a disability or long-term health condition and require assistance and have not yet reached SP age. Although claims are made before the age of 65, once this benefit has been awarded it will continue after this age if the eligibility criteria remain satisfied. The same applies to DLA, the predecessor to PIP.
Carer’s allowance (CA) is a benefit for those who care for a disabled person for at least 35 hours per week. There is no upper age limit, and the carer can claim even if they have never worked, as entitlement is not dependent on NI contributions.
Lucie Glover, a Chartered Legal Executive who specialises in vulnerable client matters for Furley Page, said: “CA is not a complex benefit, but its relationship with other benefits is very complicated, as the overlapping benefits rules mean that CA cannot be paid if the claimant receives at least the same weekly amount from other benefits, such as State Pension. It it is important to work out how it will affect any other payments prior to making a claim.
“Pensioners may also be entitled to other benefits, discounts and exemptions, including TV licence concessions, blue badge for disabled parking, free NHS prescriptions, free glasses, free dental treatment, a senior railcard or local authority bus pass, or certain additional social security payments such as a cold weather payment, winter fuel payment or bereavement payment.”
For advice about welfare benefits and other matters affecting older people contact James Simpson or Lucie Glover from Furley Page’s Vulnerable Client team on 01227 763939.
The full version of this article can be accessed here: https://www.furleypage.co.uk/insights/law-updates/comprehensive-guide-to-the-range-of-welfare-benefits-available-to-older-clients/
** Pension credit calculator: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator