AS 1 IN 4 OLDER PEOPLE – NEARLY 3 MILLION – ADMIT IT’S A STRUGGLE FINANCIALLY
Latest research from Age UK finds that nearly three million (2,825,000) over-65s – one in four – are finding life a struggle financially.[i] Meanwhile the latest Government figures show that 800,000 pensioners are living in ‘material deprivation’ which refers to an inability even to afford the basics.[ii] Last year the number of pensioners living below the poverty line rose to 1.9m[iii] and Government statistics[iv] show that among the over-65s:
- Over a million (1,181,400) would be unable to meet an unexpected expense of £200
- Almost a million (945,100) would be unable to replace a cooker if it broke down
- 708,800 are unable to keep their homes damp free
- More than half a million (572,600) are unable to keep their homes adequately warm
- 286,300 are unable to pay regular bills
- Well over a million (1,299,600) have no access to a car and can’t afford a taxi.
As Age UK releases a new briefing on ‘Poverty in Later Life’, explaining what poverty is and what it means in practice, the Charity is urging older people who are worried about their finances to get in touch so they can find out if they are entitled to help. Calls to Age UK Advice, the Charity’s national advice line, show just how tough it is to get by if you are a pensioner on a tight budget:
- A woman contacted Age UK about her 80-year old relative who was sleeping in a downstairs room because it was too expensive to put the central heating on. The gas fire was then disconnected because there was a smell of gas. The relative was also in arrears and could not afford the cost of a new fire and the fitting.
- A sheltered housing resident in her 70s living on a low income wanted help to get a new washing machine. She had been turned down by a local authority welfare scheme and was having to wash everything by hand which was causing her a lot of pain.
Research has shown that people in advanced older age, who are single, and/or who rent their homes rather than own them are at increased risk of living in poverty:[v]
- 19% of all 80 to 84 year olds and 21% of those aged 85+ are in poverty compared to only 13% of 65-69 year olds.
- 20% of single pensioners live in poverty compared to 13% of couples.
- 33% of private tenants and 29% of social rented tenants.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Today we are at risk as a society of blithely assuming that every older person is comfortably off, but these new figures show that to be way off the mark. In fact the most recent Age UK research suggests that one in four are finding it a struggle to manage, adding up to approaching three million pensioners in all. With so many older people worried about being hard up it is certainly not ‘job done’ when it comes to ending pensioner poverty.
“Trying to make ends meet on a low income is a big challenge at any age, but if you are an older person living on your own who is praying your ageing television somehow keeps going, because you know there is no way you’ll ever be able to afford to replace it, life becomes especially grim.
“Yet despite so many pensioners struggling financially, as much as £3.5 billion in financial help is going unclaimed by older people every year when this extra income could make a real difference to their peace of mind. That’s why we would urge any older person who is worried about money to get in touch with Age UK by calling our advice line free of charge on 0800 169 6565 or by visiting www.ageuk.org.uk for free information and advice.”
The Charity publishes a range of free guides to help people navigate the benefits system and has trained advisers on hand all year round to offer support. Its annually updated More money in your pocket guide 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. The Charity also publishes mini-guides including Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance and Council Tax.
To order a free copy of any of Age UK’s guides, or for further information and advice on any issue, 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/money-matters, where there is also an online personalised benefits calculator to help people find out exactly what they are owed, quickly and easily.