An estimated 880,000 older people are missing out on state support worth more than £3,000 a year, said Joanna Elson, chief executive of Independent Age. “Many are suffering needlessly, while this money has been available all along.”
Four in 10 fail to claim a vital form of support called Pension Credit, a means-tested income top up for low income pensioners.
Pension Credit increases incomes to £201.05 a week if single or £306.85 for couples. Claiming is crucial as it also acts as a gateway for Housing Benefit, Cost of Living Payments, Council Tax Reduction, support for mortgage interest, a free TV licence from age 75, help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments, and the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
You can check eligibility online, by post or by calling the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234, said Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell. “There is an extra incentive as claimants are eligible for the next Cost of Living payment, worth £299 and paid in the Spring.”
Almost two thirds of elderly people have cut back on heating to cope with financial constraints, risking their health, according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, while the disabled and those on low incomes also struggle.
Verity Kick, marketing director at Oak Tree Mobility, said: “Winter uniquely impacts older people and they need to claim all the help they are due.”
Winter Fuel Payment. If you were born before September 25, 1957, you could get between £250 and £600 towards your heating bills, paid automatically. Also paid to those getting a number of state benefits
This is normally £300, but this winter it is increased by a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment worth between £150 and £300.
If eligible, you’ll get a letter in October or November. Otherwise call the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160.
You will need your National Insurance number, as well as your bank or building society details.
Warm Home Discount. Those who qualify for the “guarantee credit” element of pension credit or live in a low income household can get £150 off their electricity bill this winter.
If you think you are eligible but do not get a letter by early January 2024, call 0800 030 9322. Ring before February 29 at the latest.
Cold Weather Payment. Paid to those who claim certain benefits when the local temperature drops to zero degrees or below for seven days in a row. Claimants get £25 for each cold spell between November 1 and March 31, 2024.
This means payments could start coming through during the next cold snap.
Christmas Bonus. This is a one-off tax-free £10 payment for people who are claiming certain benefits in the first full week of December. These include the State Pension, Pension Credit, Carer’s Allowance and most disability benefits. Paid automatically, it will not affect any other benefits you receive. May show up as DWP XB on your bank statement.
Household Support Fund. This £842million fund gives hard-pressed households support for essentials such as food, utilities and clothing. It has been extended and runs until March 2024, with a third of the pot is dedicated to pensioners.
Apply through your local council, which will request details of your household make up, earnings and expenses.
Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Energy suppliers are obliged to help low-income, fuel-poor and vulnerable households to heat their homes, say, by installing insulation or upgrading a heating system. Again, those claiming Pension Credit are eligible. Contact your energy supplier to see if it can help.
To find out more, visit government website Gov.uk or benefits site Turn2Us.org.uk. Age UK and Citizens Advice can also help people claim the money due to them
Cost of living support. Millions of households will also receive £300 from the Department for Work & Pensions between October 31 and November 19, 2023.
This is the second of three payments totalling up to £900 supporting eligible people on means-tested benefits including tax credits, Universal Credit and Pension Credit.
Eligible pensioner households will also receive a further £300 payment later this year as an addition to the Winter Fuel Payment.
The £300 Cost of Living Payment will be sent out automatically and directly to recipients, meaning those eligible do not need to apply.