If you’ve retired, make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. You may not like the idea of claiming benefits, or you may be completely confused about what you could receive. But it’s important that you claim – you could be a lot better off.
Benefits for pensioners
There are several benefits that you may be entitled to if you’re over state pension age. The main ones are:
This is one of the most unclaimed and misunderstood benefits. It is tax free and is not means tested. Many older people who are entitled to it don’t claim it because they’re simply not aware that it is something they could receive. It’s a benefit that you could be entitled to if you’re aged 65 or over and you have an illness or disability that means you need someone to care for you. There are two different rates depending on how severe your illness or disability is. The higher rate, which you can get if you need help day and night, is worth around £87.65 a week in the tax year 2019-20.
SAVVY TIP: That ‘someone’ doesn’t have to be a paid carer — it could be your husband, partner or family member who does the caring. Payments are tax free and it’s not means tested. If you’re eligible to receive attendance allowance you may be able to receive other benefits (such as pension credit).
Council tax reduction
If you don’t have more than £16,000 in savings you may be able to get some help towards your council tax bill through council tax benefit. You need to apply to your local authority and you’ll receive the ‘benefit’ as a reduction in your bill (unless your claim is backdated — see below — in which case you’ll receive a cheque to cover this period). There’s information on the basics of claiming council tax reduction on the government’s Gov website.
SAVVY TIP: There’s a different scheme operating in Northern Ireland which will give you help with paying your rates. There’s information about help with paying your rates on the NI Direct website.
As with council tax benefit you won’t be entitled to housing benefit if you have more than £16,000 in savings (unless you receive the pension guarantee credit). Housing benefit will pay towards rental costs but you won’t necessarily get the full costs of your rent paid.
SAVVY TIP: Housing benefit may also be used to pay towards communal laundry or lift services, but not other costs such as water or gas and electricity charges.
Age UK says that the average pension credit payment is £56 a week or £3,000 a year and up to a third of all pensioners could be entitled to this benefit. Although it’s aimed at people on a lower pension income or with modest savings, 88% of people who apply for it get it.
SAVVY TIP: The first £10,000 of your savings are ignored when you apply for pension credit. There are two elements to pension credit — the guarantee credit and the savings credit. Pension guarantee credit is payable (to men and women) at the state pension age for women, which is gradually increasing from 60 to 65, while the savings credit is payable at age 65.
SAVVY TIP: There is more information on Pension Credit – what are you entitled to? on SavvyWoman.
Age UK has a benefits calculator on its website.
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