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How benefits checks can change lives

In a call centre, a woman answers an Advice Line call

Check mates

The Age UK Advice Line’s new benefits team is dedicated to helping older people claim the money they’re entitled to. We learn how this new team is already making a difference.



For so many older people, the past few years have been full of challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered lives, intensifying feelings of loneliness and isolation. For some people, being unable to get out and about in that time resulted in a lasting loss of confidence to leave the house at all.

In recent months, the cost of living crisis has presented more obstacles to overcome. For people who can’t leave their homes, groceries and heating can take on an added significance, providing a source of comfort and consistency. But the soaring costs of everyday essentials have meant that life at home has become increasingly expensive, and often full of uncertainty. Too many older people have been forced to make choices that no one should have to – from washing in cold water to foregoing hot meals just to make ends meet.

Specialist support

Open every day of the year, the Age UK Advice Line is a free and confidential service which offers access to expert guidance, and supports older people with nowhere else to turn to make informed decisions. The advisors cover a huge range of issues that someone may encounter as they age.

In 2022, its specialist advisors received more than 230,000 calls, letters and emails – and much of that contact came from older people struggling with the effects of the cost of living crisis. It was clear that there was a growing need to provide dedicated support.

Paul Spencer, Age UK’s Head of Service Operations (National Services), explains: “The cost of living has seen a significant rise in older people coming to us for help with their finances, yet we know thousands aren’t claiming money they are entitled to. In order to meet this urgent need, we created the new Benefits Entitlement Checks team, which is on course to help people get their finances back on track.”

Since its formation in October 2022, the new Benefits Entitlement Checks team has completed nearly 1,000 checks, which take just 45 minutes, for people who weren’t claiming everything they’re entitled to. These checks have helped callers to identify over £6 million worth of unclaimed benefits, averaging at an additional £4,500 per person. Research by Age UK earlier this year found that four in five (84%) of these older people were at risk of fuel poverty.  

Feeling the benefit

For those who have had a benefits entitlement check, the extra money claimed can go some way to easing concerns. Phil, 69, a retired injection moulding technician from Greater Manchester, had worked since the age of 15, and “never claimed a penny” when the cost of living crisis hit. But with a threatened rise in rent, he found his state pension wasn’t stretching far enough.

After his benefits entitlement check, Phil was told he could claim Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. “I've not grasped yet what this means to me, and how much I won’t have to worry financially since being allotted this money thanks to Age UK,” says Phil. 

Age UK are utterly brilliant people to talk to. They can turn it around for you like they have for me.


Maggie used to work in a customer-facing role at her local council. She never expected she would need financial help herself, but also found that her check made a positive difference. Spiralling costs had meant that Maggie, who has fibromyalgia and COPD, could no longer afford a taxi to her essential medical appointments. She had also reduced the amount of food she was buying to the point that it began to affect her wellbeing and that of her husband, Brian, a cancer survivor.

“When Brian had cancer, we got through that together. But this was worse because I knew it wasn’t going to get better,” admits Maggie.

Maggie turned to Age UK following recommendations from friends and family. “I felt embarrassed to have to ask for help and explain why I needed it,” she says. But with support from the new Benefits Entitlement Team, Maggie was awarded Attendance Allowance.

Now I can get a taxi to the hospital without thinking ‘there goes my Sunday dinner’.


Maggie and Brian can now also afford to buy the right food for Brian’s special post-cancer diet, and crutches that enable Maggie to enjoy walks with her husband. “This and the other things we spend the money on has enriched our life no end, and has given me back confidence to venture out.”

Nearly a third of all enquiries to the Age UK Advice Line are about older people’s benefits – and, as the cost of living crisis continues, so does the need for timely and relevant guidance on the financial support available. The Benefits Entitlements Team is now planning to work with the wider Age UK network, including Local Age UK branches across the country, to speed up checks nationwide.

Get more money in your pocket

Do you know what benefits you're entitled to? Use our benefits calculator for a quick assessment, or call our Advice Line on 0800 678 1602 for a Benefits Entitlement Check.

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Last updated: Jul 10 2023

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