Unfortunately, it is all too common for older people across the UK to struggle with their finances. With rising utility bills and lower pensions, more and more people are forced into making sacrifices for the sake of their finances. The number of pensioners living below the poverty line rose to 1.9 million in 2016. Fortunately, there are some helpful benefits for pensioners and older people, but there are also concerns that people are unaware of them – with more than £3.5 billion worth going unclaimed.
In fact, one in four older people faces financial struggles according to a recent study. The survey, which included more than 1,300 people over the age of 65, suggested that 572,600 older people were unable to keep their homes adequately warm, while 286,300 were unable to pay regular bills. Other worrying figures included:
- 708,800 older people are unable to keep their homes damp-free.
- 945,100 older people would be unable to replace a cooker if it broke down.
- 1,299,6000 older people have no access to a car and cannot afford a taxi.
Here are some of the benefits for pensioners and older people for which you may be eligible:
Pension Credit is an income-related, tax-free benefit, made up of two parts:
- Guarantee Credit – Tops up your weekly income if it’s below £173.75 (for single people) or £265.20 (for couples).
- Savings Credit – This is an extra payment for older people who saved some money towards their retirement. It’s only available to people who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016. If eligible, you could receive up to £13.97 a week (for single people) or £15.62 a week (for couples).
You can start your application for Pension Credit four months before you reach State Pension age. The best way to apply for pension credit is by phone on 0800 99 1234 (Textphone 0800 169 0133). You should have your NI number, information about income and savings, and bank account details to hand.
If you receive Pension Credit, even if it’s only a small amount, you may also be eligible for several other benefits for pensioners and older people. These include the following, among others:
- Free TV licence from August 2020
- Council tax reduction
- Housing benefit – for those who pay rent
- Cold weather payments
Cold Weather Payment
If the average daily temperature is recorded as 0°C or below for seven consecutive days in your area, then you will be entitled to £25 from the Government. You will qualify for the Cold Weather Payment if you claim one or more income-related benefits, such as Income Support, Universal Credit, Pension Credit, or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
This scheme runs between November 1 and March 31 every year and you will receive the money after each seven-day period which records the required average temperature.
The survey, which included more than 1300 people over the age of 65, suggested that 572,600 older people were unable to keep their warms adequately warm, while 286,300 were unable to pay regular bills.”
With this scheme, you could receive between £100 and £300 of tax-free money to help you pay your heating bills. You will automatically receive this payment if you receive State Pension or Pension Credit. You may also be able to claim the Winter Fuel Payment if you receive another social security benefit (but not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit, or Universal Credit).
You’ll also need to have lived in the UK for at least one day of the “qualifying week”. For 2020-21, this week was 21st – 27th September 2020.
Most payments are made between November and December and you are usually guaranteed to receive the money before Christmas. You can find out more about this elderly benefit on the UK government website.
Disability Living Allowance
The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax-free benefit that helps disabled people with mobility and care costs. The government is currently replacing this benefit for people aged 16 or over. If you already receive DLA and you are under 16 or were born before 8 April 1948, you can continue receiving DLA. However, if you are 16 or older, you won’t be able to apply for DLA.
Instead, those between 16 and State Pension Age should apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), while those who have reached State Pension age should apply for Attendance Allowance.
If you receive DLA and your circumstances change (e.g. you go into hospital or a care home for more than four weeks or you change your name, address, or bank details), you must notify the Disability Service Centre.
Personal Independence Payment
This is the benefit that is replacing DLA for adults under State Pension Age. Those who qualify could receive between £23.60 and £151.40 per week. If you currently receive DLA, you may be invited to apply for PIP instead. This application will involve an assessment by a health professional to see how your medical condition affects you.
Generally, you’ll be eligible for PIP if you have a condition or disability which has caused difficulty with daily living and/or getting around for three months and you expect these difficulties to continue for nine months or more. You’ll also be able to claim PIP quickly if you’re terminally ill.
There are two different parts to PIP: the daily living part and the mobility part. You may be eligible for both components or just one. Both parts are paid weekly and there are two different rates for each. The daily living part is either £59.70 or £89.15 per week while the mobility part is either £23.60 or £62.25 per week.
You’ll receive the daily living part if you need help with any of the following tasks:
- preparing or eating food
- washing, bathing, and using the toilet
- dressing and undressing
- reading and communicating
- managing your medicines or treatments
- making decisions about money
- engaging with other people
If you need help going out or moving around, you’ll receive the mobility part.
Many people find themselves acting as a carer for a partner or family member as they get older. However, lots of people don’t realise that they are entitled to an allowance. Don’t rule yourself out as a carer simply because you’ve cared for your loved one for a long time and feel it is your duty. You could still receive an allowance to make life a bit easier.
In order to qualify for Carer’s Allowance, you’ll need to care for someone for at least 35 hours per week. This care could include help with washing, cooking, shopping, managing household bills, or taking the person to medical appointments. You must not have earnings of more than £128 per week after tax or be in full-time education. Furthermore, the person you care for will need to be receiving one of a few qualifying benefits, including PIP, DLA, and Attendance Allowance among others.
If eligible, you could receive £67.25 a week. It’s important to note that you do not have to be related to or living with the person you care for in order to qualify. However, if more than one carer cares for the same person, only one of them can claim Carer’s Allowance. Please note that claiming Carer’s Allowance may affect the other benefits both you and the person you care for already receive.
For more information, see the UK government’s web page on Carer’s Allowance.
If you have reached State Pension age and have a disability that is severe enough to need assistance from another person, you may be entitled to Attendance Allowance.
The amount you receive will depend on how much help you require. If you need frequent help or supervision during the day, or supervision at night (but not both) you may receive the lower rate of £59.70 per week. If you require frequent help or supervision during both day and night, or you are terminally ill, you may receive the higher rate of £89.15 per week. It doesn’t matter if you are actually receiving help and assistance or not; simply qualifying as needing help means that you should receive the allowance.
You can still claim Attendance Allowance if you live in a care home on the condition that you pay for all your care home costs yourself. If your local authority pays for your care, you won’t usually be eligible for Attendance Allowance.
To apply, call the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0345 605 6055 (Textphone: 0345 604 5312). They will then send you a form and instructions on how to complete it.
Bereavement Support Payment
The Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is a benefit available to those who have lost their husband, wife or civil partner in the last 21 months. The BSP has replaced previous versions of bereavement benefits in the UK, including Bereavement Allowance, Widow’s Pension, Bereavement Payment, and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.
Under the new system, there are two rates of Bereavement Support Payment. At either rate, you’ll receive a large initial payment, followed by up to 18 monthly payments. If you receive/are entitled to Child Benefit, you will get the higher rate of BSP. If you are not entitled to Child Benefit, you will get the lower rate unless you were pregnant when your partner died.
- Higher rate: first payment of £3500, followed by monthly payments of £350.
- Lower rate: first payment of £2500, followed by monthly payments of £100.
In order to receive the full amount available, you must make a claim within 3 months of your partner’s death. Otherwise, you’ll receive fewer monthly payments. If you receive any other benefits, Bereavement Support Payment will not affect your benefits for the first year. After a year, the money from your first BSP payment could affect the other benefits you receive. Please note that you must inform your benefits office when you start receiving Bereavement Support Payment.
For information on how to claim Bereavement Support Payment, see the gov.uk website here.
Discounted and Free Television
The criteria for free TV Licences have changed. From 1 August 2020, in order to receive a free TV Licence, the licence holder will need to be over 75 and they (or their partner living at the same address) will need to be receiving Pension Credit. This free licence will also cover anybody else who lives in your home with you.
However, you will not receive your free TV Licence automatically. You will have to make sure that you make an application – you can apply from when you are 74.
Those under the age of 75 may be eligible for a discount on their TV Licence if they live in residential care. To qualify for a cheaper licence (just £7.50), you must also be retired and over 60 or disabled.
Alternatively, you could get 50% off your TV Licence if you are registered blind or live with somebody else who is. The blind person will need to be the licence holder.
You can apply for any kind of TV Licence – free, discounted, or otherwise – through the official TV Licensing website.
Discounted and Free travel
Older people are eligible for lots of discounts on public transport including buses and trains. In England, you’ll qualify for a free bus pass when you reach the women’s State Pension age (regardless of your gender). In Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, you’ll be eligible for a free bus pass from the age of 60.
Those who live in London can travel on buses, tubes, and some National Rail services for free from the age of 60. You’ll need to apply for a 60+ Oyster photocard – go to the TFL website for more information. Alternatively, you may be eligible for an older person’s Freedom Pass.
Anyone who travels regularly by train should apply for a Senior Railcard. This will give you a third off the price of all Standard and First Class Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance fares. You can choose to purchase a one-year Rail Card for £30 or a Three-Year Rail Card for just £70. If you know that you are going to continue travelling on trains for the next few years, then we would advise that you go for the three-year deal.
Free Eye Tests and Dental Care
Everybody over the age of 60 is entitled to free eye check-ups. This could become really important if you begin you struggle with your eyesight as the years go by. You are also eligible for vouchers to help cover the costs of contact lenses and glasses.
If you receive the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, then you are also entitled to free dental treatment.
Hospital Travel Costs
Unfortunately, as we get older visits to the hospital can become more frequent. Luckily, you can claim some support to cover the costs of travelling to hospital if you already receive some benefits for pensioners or older people.
You can join the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme if you receive:
- Guarantee Pension Credit.
- Income Support.
- Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- Employment and Support Allowance.
In order to claim, you should mention that you have qualified to receive the money back by showing your award notice, tax credit exemption certificate or your HC2 Form. If you forget to bring one of these documents with you to the hospital, then you can claim back up to three months after your appointment. In this instance, you will need an HC5 form, which should be available at your doctor’s surgery or at the hospital.
How Do I Know Which Benefits I Can Claim?
With so many benefits available, each with their own distinct criteria, it can be hard to know which ones you qualify for. A benefits calculator is a quick, simple way to check your eligibility. These handy tools can be incredibly helpful, especially to those who haven’t made a claim before.
Find out more about the Personal Alarm
Claiming all the benefits for which you qualify can help you get the most out of your retirement. As well as boosting your income, why not maximise your safety and peace of mind too?
Our life-saving personal alarms help thousands of elderly and disabled customers throughout the UK. If one of our alarm users feels unwell or has a fall, all they need to do is press their alarm button. Our expert team will respond in seconds and make sure they get the help they need. For more information, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 2 March 2021 to reflect current information.
Originally published April 2016.