A third of older people are struggling financially
Published on 10 May 2013 12:01 AM
Age UK is urging older people to claim benefits cash as new research shows that a third of older people are struggling financially.
Everyday living costs are causing considerable hardship for pensioners with 1 in 3 older people (32%) admitting they are struggling financially, according to new research for Age UK.
With well over half (56%) of those surveyed worried about even the most basic living costs such as buying food and keeping warm, Age UK is stepping up its efforts to encourage older people to claim vital benefits cash.
New findings show around a third of older people (32%) are feeling financially worse off than this time last year, with nearly a quarter (24%) of those surveyed admitting they have cut back on luxuries and a fifth (22%) saying they have bought cheaper or less food.
More worryingly, 1 in 5 (21%) poorer pensioners said they cut back on heating their home this winter, despite the bitter weather and health risks of living in a cold home.
Let's Talk Money - getting £144 million into older people's pockets
Launching today, Age UK's new Let's Talk Money campaign - backed by Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis - has set an ambitious target to get an extra £144 million into the pockets of older people by this time next year.
With as much as £5.5 billion going unclaimed every year, Age UK is warning that millions of older people need help, but are missing out on key benefits to which they are entitled such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Attendance Allowance and help towards paying council tax.
Many pensioners live on low, fixed incomes and have been hit hard by the rising cost of food and energy over the last year. Yet despite 1.7 million pensioners living in poverty and many thousands more struggling to pay the bills, huge numbers of older people are unaware of the help that's available or are reluctant to make a claim.
Thinking they won't get enough to make it worth claiming and not knowing if they would be entitled were the top reasons given to Age UK for failing to make a claim, with other common barriers including people feeling too proud or embarrassed, or believing the claiming process is too complicated or intrusive.
A third of those eligible, don't claim Pension Credit
Despite over 4 million pensioners being entitled to Pension Credit - a top up for people on low incomes - a third of those who are eligible don't claim it. Yet if all those who are entitled to Pension Credit put in a claim, it could boost their income by an average of £1,716 a year - well over the cost of the average energy bill which currently stands at £1,420 a year.
And more than two-fifths of those surveyed by Age UK (43%) said that claiming benefits has made a noticeable difference to their quality of life including helping them to worry less about making ends meet, pay for essential items such as food, and see friends and family.
Martin Lewis, creator of Money Saving Expert, commented: 'It's a tragedy that millions of older people who've paid into the system for much of their lives are living in poverty, or on far less than they need, simply because of a lack of information.
'Small amounts of cash, such as the hideously under-claimed Pension Credit, can make a massive difference to people's lives. I'd suggest any older person who's finding it difficult to make ends meet speak to Age UK about a benefits check. There's nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain.'
Call Age UK for advice on what you could claim
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director, commented: 'At Age UK we have helped thousands of older people put in a successful benefits claim over the last year, but there is much more work to be done. People are constantly telling us how much of a difference the extra money makes, how surprised they are by how straightforward the process is with the help of an adviser, and how much less they worry about everyday bills. But there are still huge numbers missing out and in need of help.
'We want any older person who is worried about money to contact us to find out if they could be entitled to some extra help. They can also call our national Age UK Advice line on 0800 169 65 65.
Age UK has just published its newly updated ‘More Money in Your Pocket' booklet (PDF, 1MB) which is a handy guide to claiming benefits for pensioners. (To order the booklet to be sent through the post, please call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65)
Top 5 myths preventing pensioners from claiming benefits
- I don't think I'll be eligible for Pension Credit
Don't rule yourself out. Around two thirds of claims are successful and over 2.5 million people across Britain receive it.
- I'll get so little it's not worth me claiming
Even if you only get a little extra each month, receiving Pension Credit may open the door to you receiving help for other things such as rent, council tax or keeping your house warm.
- I have some savings so I won't get anything
Having some savings or another pension doesn't necessarily rule you out. In fact, if you're aged 65 or over you might be entitled to extra money for having saved some money towards your retirement.
- I own my own home so I won't get anything
Owning your own home doesn't rule you out. Nearly half of families who get Pension Credit own their own home.
- I've been turned down for Pension Credit before. It's not worth it applying again.
Your circumstances could have changed and there's been a change to how entitlement is worked out which means even more people could now be eligible. The first £10,000 of your savings will now be ignored when working out if you can get Pension Credit.