State pension age Britons urged to check if they’re among 1 million missing out on boost

State Pension age could be reviewed due to pandemic says expert

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The UK state pension makes up a significant part of many people’s income during retirement. Worryingly though, new statistics released this week show pensioner poverty levels are on the rise.

The Government data shows 18 percent of pensioners, equivalent to 2.1 million, are living in poverty after housing costs.

“This worrying increase represents 200,000 more pensioners in poverty than the previous year and there hasn’t been a larger number of pensioners living in poverty for more than 15 years,” Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, commented.

She added that the new figures also show eight percent of pensioners wouldn’t be able to pay an unexpected bill – equivalent to more than 900,000 people.

“This paints a stark picture of the grim reality of retirement for millions of pensioners in the UK,” Ms Abrahams added.

“The fact is that far too many pensioners are living in a precarious financial situation, with insufficient income to cover even their basic costs.

“Many of these older people are likely to be in poor health and feeling extremely vulnerable as the country has been in lockdowns for the past year.

“They are likely to be just about managing by budgeting carefully and the smallest increase in expenditure, such as an unexpectedly high utility bill, can quickly tip the scales.

“The threat of pensioner poverty remains very much in place, and when life returns to some semblance of normality, the Government needs to do more to ensure older people get the benefits they’re entitled to.

“This Government should be paying more attention to those among us who are quietly, uncomplainingly struggling on, facing a daily battle to afford the very basics that most of us take for granted.

“Action is urgently needed to prevent yet more pensioners slipping not just below the poverty line but completely off the radar.”

The new statistics may spark some to wonder what financial support may be currently be out there for pensioners.

Pension Credit, for instance, is a means-tested benefit which a person may be able to get if they have reached state pension age and are on a low income.

As well as receiving extra money, recipients of Pension Credit could qualify for extra financial support such as a discount on their council tax, help with their heating costs, and a free TV Licence if they are aged 75 or older.

However, the benefit needs to be actively claimed, and a huge number of those entitled could be missing out.

The last set of official figures on take-up are for the 2018/19 year, showing nearly one million households are failing to claim the benefit, despite being eligible.

The figures, released prior to changes to the free over 75s TV Licence scheme and last year’s DWP campaign to raise awareness of Pension Credit, shows take-up is about 63 percent with 1.57 million eligible households claiming and 920,000 failing to claim.

The estimated amount claimed is £4.87billion while £1.56billion was estimated to go unclaimed, according to those statistics.

It puts the mean amount unclaimed at £32 a week per household (£1,664 per annum) and the median amount at £18 a week (£936 per annum).

Stephen Lowe, director at retirement specialist Just Group, commented on the issue of Pension Credit take-up, telling Express.co.uk: “Pension Credit take-up levels have been a bone of contention for many years.

“It will be interesting to see if moves to encourage more people to claim have borne fruit because the sums at stake are meaningful amounts for those struggling on low incomes.

“Pension Credit is also important as a ‘gateway benefit’ in terms that people who receive it can also automatically receive other support such as cold weather payments and prescriptions.

“So even if the Pension Credit claim ends up being relatively small, the effect on overall income may be much larger.

“We suspect that even people struggling for income may never have checked if they are eligible for Pension Credit, perhaps because they think they are the type to claim benefits, that owning a house rules them out of receiving support, or because the sums would be too low.

“Certainly, take up is lower among couples (56 percent) than for single males and single females (both 65 percent).

“Our own research found that four in 10 (42 percent) of those aged over 65 had never checked if they were eligible for a benefit, a figure that is higher among homeowners (49 percent) and those aged over 80 (57 percent).

“We would urge people to check for themselves, or on behalf of older relatives if they see them struggling for income.

“It is easy to do online – the government web site has links to useful calculators run by third-party organisations while other sources of help are Citizens Advice and local councils.”

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