1 in 4 pensioners struggling financially
Published on 21 May 2014 12:00 AM
1 in 4 pensioners struggling financially despite billions going unclaimed
A quarter of over-65s are struggling financially, according to new research for Age UK (1), despite up to £5.5 billion in financial help going unclaimed every year (2).
With new figures from its Chief Economist's Report also revealing that a quarter of all over-65s feel financially worse off compared with this time last year, and a third are worried about the general cost of living (3), the Charity is warning that much more must be done to get vital benefits cash to those who need it.
The government's own figures show that one in 10 pensioners would not be able to pay an unexpected expense of £200, to replace a broken washing machine for example, and half of those who could afford to pay would have to dip into their savings to do so (4). Yet millions of older people who are struggling to survive on a meagre income could be entitled to benefits such as Pension Credit which if claimed, could provide a much-needed boost to their weekly income. In fact, if everyone who is eligible for Pension Credit made a claim, it could increase their income by an average of £1,716 a year (5) - which would more than cover the average dual-fuel bill which currently stands at £1,271 a year (6).
Compounding the misery of living in poverty, many of the poorest pensioners also have to pay more for other services such as gas, electricity, insurance and banking, says Age UK. Living on a low income can be expensive - with those on pre-payment meters paying a higher energy tariff, those managing on a tight weekly budget unable to buy in bulk or benefit from cheaper direct debit rates, and those without access to the internet unable to take advantage of cheaper online deals.
Many pensioners live on low, fixed incomes and have been hit hard by the rising cost of food and energy over recent years. Yet despite 1.6 million pensioners living below the poverty line, with nearly a million of those living in severe poverty (7) and many thousands more struggling to pay basic bills, huge numbers of older people are missing out on vital support. Many are unaware of the help that's available or reluctant to make a claim because they don't realise they will be entitled to anything, others feel too proud or embarrassed to claim, and some believe the claiming process is too complicated or intrusive.
That's why, as part of Age UK's extensive national information and advice service, the Charity has updated its ‘More money in your pocket' guide (8) which is specifically designed to help older people claim the benefits to which they are entitled, including Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, and help towards paying council tax. In addition many older disabled people could receive extra support by claiming the non-means-tested Attendance Allowance.
Age UK's Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, said: 'Managing on a low, fixed income is really tough, and many people face a daily struggle just to afford the basics.
'That is why is it so important that every older person who is entitled to claim benefits does so. Every day Age UK helps people to claim what they are entitled to, and every day we hear how much of a difference the money makes, how surprised people are by how straightforward the process is with the help of an adviser, and how much less they have to worry about everyday bills.
'We want any older person who is worried about money to contact us in case they are one of the millions who are entitled to extra help. Everyone should have the opportunity to be able to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.'
To order a free copy of the updated ‘More money in your pocket' guide or for further information and advice, people can call Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 65 65, contact their local Age UK, or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney, where there is also an online personalised benefits calculator to help people find out exactly what they are owed, quickly and easily.
As well as publishing guides and factsheets, the Charity offers essential support via its website, free advice line and network of local Age UKs, on a broad range of issues such as claiming benefits and managing money, exploring housing options, paying for care and support, staying fit and healthy, and making the most of the internet.
Notes to editors
1 Older people tracker survey for Age UK, UK TNS, 2014 - fieldwork: 04/04/14 - 13/04/14, 1,914 adults aged 50 and over. The figures used in this release relate to the over-65s only. "Struggling" is defined here as the aggregated answers "Just about getting by", "Finding it quite difficult" and "Finding it very difficult".
2 Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-up in 2009/10, Department for Work and Pensions, 2012 (latest figures).
3 Age UK's Chief Economist's Report, May 2014. These figure refers to retired households. Twice a year, Age UK's Chief Economist Professor Jose Iparraguirre produces a report, which provides an overview of the current economic situation of people in later life in the UK, together with in-depth analyses of the factors behind key economic trends.
4 Households Below Average Income 2011/12, Chapter 6, Table 6.11db (After Housing Costs), Department for Work and Pensions, pub. 2013.
5 Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-up in 2009/10, Department for Work and Pensions, 2012 (latest figures).
6 OFGEM estimates 2014. Outlook for costs that make up energy bills.
7 Households Below Average Income 2011/12, Chapter 6, DWP, pub. 2013.
8 To order a free copy of the ‘More money in your pocket' guide, people can call Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 65 65 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney, where there is an online benefits calculator to help people find out if they are entitled to any extra support.
- Case studies and spokespeople may be available for interview - please contact Helen or Anne-Marie in the media team (details above) to arrange.
- For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.
We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).