OLDER people on low incomes are still not claiming many of the benefits they're entitled to according to McCarthy & Stone, the UK's leading developer of retirement apartments. Through its benefits advice service, the company has helped more than 200 customers in the past 12 months find unclaimed benefits totalling more than £600,000.
With figures from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) indicating that up to 1.6m older people are failing to claim pension credit worth up to £2.8bn, it is thought that about one in three of those eligible are still not claiming it. Older people should carry out a full benefits check including state pension, pension credit, attendance allowance, disability, council tax, health, winter fuel, TV licence and warm home discount scheme.
Lorena Brown, national sales director for McCarthy & Stone, comments: "A low awareness of the range of benefits older people are entitled to, as well as a fear of talking to strangers about money problems, is why many pensioners are struggling to cope with their finances and claim the extra cash. At McCarthy & Stone, we offer all residents a free and confidential review of benefits they are entitled to."
There are a number of different types of benefits available, and even if retirees are not eligible now, they may be entitled to receive certain benefits once they have moved into retirement accommodation, or if their situation changes in the future.
1. Guaranteed Pension Credit – There are two elements of pension credit – Guaranteed Credit and Savings credit, so you may be entitled to receive one or both of them. Guaranteed Pension Credit may be paid when you reach the qualifying age. It tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum if it's below £145.40, or £222.05 for a couple. These figures can also increase if you are in receipt of disability/careers benefits and/or if you are liable for ground rent and service charges.
2. Savings Credit – Savings Credit is an extra payment for those who have saved some money towards their retirement, for example a pension, and you may be able to get it if you are aged 65 or over. You may also be entitled to Savings Credit as well as Guaranteed Pension Credit. This could be worth up to £18.06 per week for single people or £22.89 for couples.
3. Attendance Allowance – Attendance Allowance is also one of most frequent benefits pensioners fail to claim. This is a non-taxable benefit for people living at home aged 65 and over who need someone to help look after them because they are physically or mentally disabled and is a non-means tested benefit.
The name given to this entitlement is confusing as it implies that you need to have someone actually looking after you at home to benefit. This is certainly not the case. A typical successful applicant for this entitlement will be over 65 years of age who, through illness or disability occurring for at least the last six months, requires help with personal care, support or supervision. What matters is that you need the help, not whether you are actually receiving it. Successful eligible applicants can receive £53 paid weekly, often if needs are limited to day time and £79.15 weekly if your needs are for day and night.
4.Council Tax Benefit – This may be met in full if you qualify for the Guaranteed Pension Credit. There are possible discounts if you have a low income and you can receive a 25 per cent discount if you live on your own. You may be entitled to a reduction in Council Tax if you are disabled or have a disabled person living with you.
5.Personal Independence Payment/Severe Disability Premium – Personal Independent Payment is a non-taxable benefit for people who have become disabled and make a claim before 65. It is non-means tested. If you receive a qualifying benefit such as Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment you may also qualify for a premium on top of the basic personal allowance known as Severe Disability Premium.
Colin Cuthbert, benefits advisor for McCarthy & Stone, comments: "Most of the people we help have never claimed anything extra in their life, but we explain that they're entitled to investigate their options. These can make a real difference to many older people who have been struggling to meet the rising cost of living and didn't know they could get some extra help."
McCarthy & Stone is currently selling a range of one- and two-bedroomed Later Living apartments at Isabel Court on Cowick Street in Exeter. As well as offering a low maintenance lifestyle, purchasers can benefit from maintained landscaped gardens, a shared lounge and the peace of mind of added security. To find out more about the properties available, visit the show complex at Isabel Court, open Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30am to 5.00pm, call 0800 201 4742, or log on to www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk