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Number of pensioners living in poverty tops two million, with Black and Asian older people most at risk

Published on 15 June 2021 11:01 PM

Pensioners urged to claim Pension Credit to combat poverty

Len Goodman and Rustie Lee back Age UK’s call for pensioners to check their eligibility for Pension Credit

The number of pensioners in poverty has now passed the two million mark,[i] with Black and Asian older people most at risk of struggling financially in later life, warns the Charity Age UK, as it urges any older person who feels financially hard-pressed to check their eligibility for Pension Credit.

The Charity is working with the DWP to encourage pensioners on low incomes to see if they can receive a Pension Credit top-up, and boost uptake of a benefit that can typically take an older person who receives it above the poverty line. Being found to be eligible for Pension Credit also acts as a gateway to some other benefits, potentially transforming an older person’s standard of living.

Since 2013/14, the number of pensioners in poverty has risen by almost a third (31 per cent) from 1.6 million. Official figures[ii] show that a third of Asian older people (33 per cent) and just under a third of Black older people (30 per cent) in the UK live below the poverty line, compared to 16 per cent of White older people. The over-85s, renters, and single, female pensioners, are also at greater risk of poverty than the older population as a whole. The total number of older people living in poverty in the UK now stands at 2.1 million.[iii]

Despite these high numbers and recent government figures showing that nearly a million older people could not afford an unexpected bill of £200,[iv] nearly a million (920,000) pensioner households are missing out on Pension Credit payments worth up to £1.6 billion every year[v] – that’s an average of £32 a week, or over £1,600 a year, per recipient.

Pam, 75, who contacted Age UK for advice, said: “I’ve had really bad periods when I can’t even open the bills, the letters. It’s been that bad, and I’ve had to wait for my daughter to come, and she’s had to go through everything. I was struggling financially a bit. I have a state pension and a small one through the county council.  A lady from the Age UK Advice line said: “I can get someone to ring you to do a benefits check for you”. So then I got the call from a lady at Age UK Lincoln, she rang me to talk about it. I never dreamed at any point that with my income that I was actually entitled to any benefits.  She did a benefits check for me and helped me fill the forms in.

“I now get Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit – which is an extra £51 a week, but it’s the other benefits that come with it too. I don’t pay Council Tax anymore – even with a quarter discount off, I was still paying about £1000 a year, which is a huge amount of money. And now I’m 75, I get my free TV licence. Without Age UK, I wouldn’t have known about any of that.

“Having the Age UK benefits check has made a huge difference to my life. With that little bit of extra money, it’s enabled me to buy things that make my life easier. I’ve got a better shower chair – it’s much safer.  When everything opened up last time, I had a chiropodist come to do my feet which I could never have afforded.  I don’t worry so much about my bills now, and that is a huge thing when you suffer with depression, anxiety, and low mood sometimes.  When those letters come, I just can’t; I just can’t deal with them, you know, and so as a result of the Age UK benefits check, it’s taken away any worries about anything.”

Recently, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman visited Age UK Lewisham and Southwark to meet older people and find out more about its work.  The Charity welcomes this interest to encourage an uptake in pensioner benefits and help reduce pensioner poverty.  Age UK with DWP are urging all pensioners who are struggling to make ends meet to put in a claim for Pension Credit – a means-tested, tax-free benefit for pensioners that opens the door to many other potential benefits including:

  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25 when the temperature is 0°C or below for 7 days in a row
  • Help with rent
  • An extra payment within Pension Credit for carers, worth up to £37.70 a week.

Age UK Ambassadors, Len Goodman and Rustie Lee, are supporting the call for older people to find out if they are entitled to Pension Credit.

Len Goodman: “Older people are so resilient and tend to know how to make do, but it doesn’t have to be like that for those who are struggling to manage day-to-day bills. 

“Pension Credit is a benefit for low-income pensioners to help cover the costs of later life.  Lots of people don’t even know it exists, meaning almost a million older households are not getting the extra money they are entitled to.  For those that have claimed, it can mean being able to stick the heating on for longer or having the money to buy essentials for their home to keep well and safe. 

“That’s why I’m supporting Age UK efforts to raise more awareness about this benefit.  There’s help out there and Age UK can support older people throughout the whole process – from information gathering to form filling.  Please… I would urge anyone who’s watching the pennies to find out more and see if they can make a claim.  Pension Credit not only gives you more money each week, it can also be a gateway to other help too.”

 Rustie Lee: “It’s so important for everyone who’s feeling the pinch at the moment to see if they might be entitled to claim some extra help. It’s just shocking that so many older people can’t afford the basics such as decent, healthy food or keeping their house nice and warm.

“Pension Credit is a really important benefit that can make a big difference to older people on a budget, giving them a bit of extra cash to pay for things that most people for granted. I’d urge any older person who is struggling to make ends meet at the moment to speak to Age UK to find out if they could be eligible for Pension Credit, it could make all the difference and open the door to lots of other financial support too. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by making a claim!”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “The numbers of older people living in poverty have risen steadily in the last few years, so they now top two million. That’s a lot of older people worried sick about how they’ll cope if their heating or their cooker breaks down and needs replacing, more than the entire populations of Newcastle and Liverpool put together.

“It’s sad to realise that the burden of poverty in old age is falling disproportionately on Black and Asian older people in our society at the moment. For their sake and, indeed, for the sake of anyone forced to scrimp and save in their later years, we should do everything possible to raise their incomes, so they can enjoy the dignified and comfortable retirement they deserve.

“It’s deeply frustrating that the money is available to top up the incomes of pensioners who live on the lowest incomes but that much of it goes begging every year because many never claim what is rightfully theirs. We really do want older people to obtain their full entitlements, particularly Pension Credit because this can open the door to additional support – but that means putting in a claim.  

“There are many reasons why older people don’t claim, including lack of awareness, worry about filling in long forms or disclosing personal information, feeling there is always someone worse off than they are, or being determined not to ask for help, even though in reality they badly need it.

“The great thing about Pension Credit is that it not only gives older people extra cash in their pocket, it can also open the door to other benefits such as a free TV licence for the over-75s, free NHS dental treatment, hospital transport, help with Council Tax and rent, and Cold Weather Payments. We’re urging anyone who is struggling financially to get in touch for a free benefits check – it could make a huge difference to the rest of their lives.”

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 (8am-7pm), visiting or contacting their local Age UK for free information and advice. Older people in Scotland can call the helpline number for Age Scotland: 0800 12 44 222.

To make a claim, people should call the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 or visit


[i] DWP (25 March 2021). Households below average income: for financial years ending 1995 to 2020. Summary Results, Table 1.6b. (figures are for relative low income after housing costs). More information

[ii] DWP (25 March 2021). Households below average income: for financial years ending 1995 to 2020. Data Tables, pensioners-hbai-detailed-breakdown-2019-20-tables, Table 6.5db. (figures are relative for low income after housing costs). More information

[iii] DWP (25 March 2021). Households below average income: for financial years ending 1995 to 2020. Summary Results, Table 1.6b. (figures are for relative low income after housing costs). More information

[iv] DWP (25 March 2021). Households below average income: for financial years ending 1995 to 2020. Data Tables, pensioners-hbai-detailed-breakdown-2019-20-tables, Table 6.11db_AHC.  More information. Scaled up to UK population figures using ONS Mid-2019 Population Estimates (Mid-2019: April 2020 local authority district codes), More information)

[v] DWP (29 October 2020). Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up 2018-19. More information

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Last updated: Feb 05 2024

Notes to editors:

Age UK is a national charity that works with a network of partners, including Age Scotland, Age Cymru, Age NI and local Age UKs across England, to help everyone make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.

In the UK, the Charity helps more than seven million older people each year by providing advice and support.  It also researches and campaigns on the issues that matter most to older people. Its work focuses on ensuring that older people: have enough money; enjoy life and feel well; receive high quality health and care; are comfortable, safe and secure at home; and feel valued and able to participate.

Age UK’s subsidiary charity, Age International, supports older people globally in over 30 developing countries by funding programmes such as vital emergency relief and healthcare and campaigning to raise awareness and change policies.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and registered company number 6825798). Charitable services are provided through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s Community Interest Company (CiC) (registered company number 1102972) which donates its net profits to Age UK (the Charity)


Age UK

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).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email 

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