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Pension Credit take-up remains stagnant despite it being the only way over 75s can get a free TV licence from 1st June

By: Age UK
Published on 27 February 2020 01:00 PM

According to new Government figures out today[i], Pension Credit take up levels remain the same as last year – with two in five (39%) who are eligible missing out on the pensioner benefit aimed to top up low incomes.

Currently an estimated 590,000 households[ii] aged 75+ are missing out on Pension Credit, meaning they’ll also miss out on a free TV licence from 1st June.  Despite so many eligible people missing out, if the BBC’s plan goes ahead, only those claiming Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV licence.

Age UK is warning that it will be the most vulnerable older people – those struggling on a low fixed income and not in receipt of Pension Credit, as well as those older people battling loneliness, ill health and disabilities – who will be hit hardest if the decision to scrap free TV licences for all over 75s remains in place.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show an estimated £2.2 billion of available Pension Credit went unclaimed in 2017/2018.  On average this amounted to more than £2,000 per year for each family entitled to receive Pension Credit who did not claim.  Official figures show that Pension Credit take up was similar for those under 75 (62%) and those 75 and over (61%) but was lowest amongst pensioner couples – with just over half of those entitled received the benefit.

Pension Credit is a means tested, tax free benefit for people over State Pension age, aimed at boosting weekly income.  Often known as the ‘gateway’ pensioner benefit, Pension Credit not only tops up weekly income, but once claimed, can help people to get other benefits to help with the cost of living such as:

  • Free TV licence – from 1st June 2020, only those over 75 and claiming Pension Credit will continue to receive a free TV licence.
  • Council Tax.
  • Free NHS dental treatment, and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital.
  • Cold Weather Payment of £25 when the temperature is 0°C or below for 7 days in a row.
  • Help with rent – rent may be paid in full by Housing Benefit.
  • Carers may get an extra amount known as Carer Premium, or Carer Addition if it’s paid with Pension Credit. This is worth up to £36.85 a week.

With two in five pensioners missing out on Pension Credit every year, the Charity is warning that the BBC’s plan to means-test TV licences for over-75s will only serve to exclude some of the very poorest and oldest pensioners from watching TV now and in the near future.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “It’s very clear from today’s figures that much more needs to be done to make sure the poorest pensioners get the financial help they’re entitled to.  You have to ask whether it is fair or appropriate to require older people on low incomes to jump through these hoops to get the money that is due to them, because clearly the current system isn’t getting the help to the most in need.

“We know that older people don’t claim Pension Credit for a number of reasons, including lack of awareness of what’s available for them, difficulty making a claim, and a sense of discomfort about needing to ask for help. 

“What’s more, those who aren’t claiming Pension Credit or are living just above the Pension Credit means tested level, are set to face horrible decisions over whether they can afford to continue to watch TV at all from 1st June. It’s completely wrong to put the oldest people in our society through this. We urge the Government to act now to broker a deal with the BBC to put millions of anxious older people’s minds at rest.” 

Any older person who is worried about money and/or who may be entitled to claim benefits should contact Age UK by calling its national advice line free of charge on 0800 169 65 65, read Age UK's benefits and entitlements articles or contact their local Age UK for free information and advice.

Age UK spent much of last year vigorously campaigning for the Government to take back responsibility for funding free TV licences for all over-75s. However the Charity and thousands of its campaigners are still waiting for a response from the Prime Minister, almost six months after handing in a petition to No. 10 – with over 630,000 signatures – calling on the Government to save free TV licences for ALL over-75s. Now Age UK is urging campaigners to write to or tweet the Prime Minister to request an answer. For more information go to Switched Off.

 

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Last updated: Mar 18 2020

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