It is estimated that around 16 per cent of pensioners in this country – 1.8 million people – live below the poverty line. Another 1.2 million live on the brink of poverty.
So what can the families of older people struggling to get by do to help them?
Working with the Money Advice Service, www.myageingparent.com, the website supporting families of older people, has published a guide to the host of benefits and allowances available to those in retirement – particularly for those on low incomes. T
The solution, says Deborah Stone, is to find out the facts and then persuade elderly parents and relatives to claim what is rightfully theirs.
“Research has revealed that more than £5 billion of means-tested benefits go unclaimed by retired people each year,” says Deborah. “That money is in place specifically for people on low incomes.
“The problem can be that the person does not know what benefits are out there, or perhaps they feel anxious about the forms involved. But the application system has got a lot simpler in recent years, there are advisors who will help you, and you do find that once you establish entitlement to what are called ‘passport benefits’, such as Pension Credit, it opens the door to other forms of support.
“Many believe that because they have a small private pension or own their own homes, they will miss out. But that’s not always the case.”
Here’s a rundown of the different benefits and other support that are available to retirees – and the full list is available here
The basic State Pension will depend on how many years of National Insurance contributions you’ve accumulated, so it’s not means tested and the full basic State Pension for 2013/2014 is currently £110.15 a week. Those who have lost a spouse or civil partner as a result of their service in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or during a time of war may be entitled to a War Widow’s or Widower’s Pension.
This acts as a “safety net” for all those on a low income; and even if you find out you’re only entitled to a small amount of Pension Credit, it’s worth claiming. This is because it can help you qualify for other benefits, like Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. The Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £145.40 for single people or £222.05 for couples, while Savings Credit is an extra payment for people aged 65 or over who have saved some money towards their retirement.
You can apply for Council Tax Reduction if you are on a low income and claiming certain benefits, and there is also a 25% reduction for those living on their own.
For those renting their accommodation and on a low income, Housing Benefit may be available from your local authority.
Help with heating
Anyone who was born on or before 5 July 1952 will be entitled to between £100 and £300 to help with the cost of energy bills during next winter. If you are already receiving a State Pension it will come automatically; if not, you may need to claim.
People who receive certain benefits such as Pension Credit may be entitled to a further payment of £25 if local temperatures drop or they are forecast to fall to zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.
Those aged 70 and over, as well as those receiving Pension Credit, are entitled to a raft of help to make their homes cheaper to heat – including cavity and loft insulation and more efficient central heating.Those on low incomes may be entitled to an annual Warm Homes Discount on their electricity bill.
Help with your health
Over 60s are entitled to free prescriptions and eye tests, while those on a low income can also get help with glasses, contact lenses and dental treatment.
If you have a disability, long-term illness or special care needs you may be able to claim either a Personal Independence Payment (if you are under 65) or an Attendance Allowance (if you are 65 or over).
The rate you are paid will depend on the level of care you need. Those caring for them may also be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit. To help disabled people remain living independently in their own home, there is a Disabled Facilities Grant to pay for with home modifications.
Getting around for less
Depending on your age and where you live in the UK you could be entitled to free or discounted bus travel – usually off-peak. In some regions of the UK, you could also get concessions on rail and other fares. The Senior Railcard and Senior Coachcard can help with discounted travel throughout the UK. The Disabled Persons Railcard also provides a discount, with a third off most fares for the cardholder and a companion.
Free TV licence
Those over 75 are entitled to a free TV licence.
Assistance for pet care
For those pensioners with pets who find themselves unable to keep up with the vet bills, the PDSA provides free care for animals owned by those on low incomes.
These benefits could make all the difference to those living below the poverty line so do pass this information on to help others.