I want to take this opportunity to wish all Mature Times readers a Happy New Year and update you on some of the government’s pension policies.
As Minister for Pensions it’s important to me that we protect the retirees of tomorrow as well as today, and we need to ensure that everyone can work towards a good standard of living in retirement.
That is why, in April 2016, the basic State Pension will once again be increased by the Triple Lock, seeing its biggest real terms increase since 2001 and will be over £1,100 more a year in cash terms than in 2010-11. The Triple Lock guarantees that existing pensioners will see their basic State Pension increase by whichever is highest; earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent.
6th April this year is also an important date for people who reach State Pension age in future. After this date we’re transforming the State Pension, replacing a system that was overly complex with one that over time will make saving for retirement much easier to understand. The State Pension system will always provide a foundation for older people’s pensions in this country, but many will also need additional income.
Many people on lower incomes are entitled to Pension Credit and perhaps don’t even realise it. This tops up other income to £151.20 for individuals and £230.85 for couples and can make a big difference to your standard of living if you’re eligible. From April 2016 the rates will increase to £155.60 for individuals and £237.55 for couples.
Overall, around 2.2 million pensioners claim Pension Credit but up to 1.4 million more eligible people may be missing out on up to £3 billion of support. Older people who have worked hard all their lives, and contributed to our society and economy over many decades, deserve this additional support in their retirement.
Now we’re in the depths of winter, we all need to ensure that we heat our homes as much as possible. No one should find themselves in the cold and turning down the thermostat to save money.
The Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 each year means that older people have the confidence to keep warm during the winter months, knowing that they will be getting help with paying their heating bills. In winter 2014/15, over £2 billion was paid in Winter Fuel Payments benefitting almost 12.5 million older people in around 9 million UK households.
To claim is really simple, just call 03459 15 15 15 with your National Insurance number and have your bank details to hand. Once you’ve claimed you’ll get Winter Fuel Payments automatically every year unless there is a change in your circumstance.
We also provide Cold Weather Payments for when it gets really cold, when temperatures in your area are recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days. You’ll receive this payment, worth up to £25 for each seven day period of cold weather, automatically too if you already receive Pension Credit or another income support benefit. Yet another reason to check what you can apply for.
It is vital that people take advantage of the support we can provide. Particularly don’t be too proud to claim Pension Credit, it’s money you’re entitled to! We have made getting Pension Credit as simple as possible – just one free phone call to 0800 991234 can be all it takes to find out if you’re eligible.
I’m hugely proud of what we’ve achieved so far. In tandem with the significant transformation to our State Pension system we aim to provide today’s and tomorrow’s pensioners with a more secure retirement.
by Baroness Ros Altmann, Minister for Pensions