According to statistics from Age UK, the number of pensioners living in poverty was more than 1.9 million in 2016, and the chances of this number being higher post 2020 more than likely, thanks to the impact of the coronavirus, Brexit and a potential double dip recession this year.
A positive side to this research is that it was discovered that more than £3.5 billion in financial support was going unclaimed, meaning that there are a large number of older people in the UK not receiving all of the financial help that they are entitled to.
There are a variety of different benefits available, from means-tested income support options to financial help with prescriptions, as well as support after a bereavement.
In this article we will look at the benefits and grants available for those over the age of 65 in the UK.
If you’re looking for a quick tool to find out what, if any, benefits you or someone in your family is entitled to, this online benefits calculator can help.
Many of the benefits listed in this guide are available to those of pension age, simply using their age as a qualifier.
This means that you may be entitled to some financial help or support simply by merit of being a certain age, without having to take into account things like household income.
Keeping homes warm is one of the key things covered by the package of financial support offered by the government to OAPs.
There are a few different benefits available, some based only on age whilst others are also based on income.
Pensioners receiving income-related benefits such as Income Support, Universal Credit or Pension Credit are entitled to £25 from the Government if the average daily temperature in their area is recorded as 0°C or below for seven consecutive days.
The scheme runs from November 1 to March 31 every year, is paid automatically at the end of the 7 day period, and there is no limit to how many times it can be paid out during this time.
The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free payment made between November and December to help with heating costs.
You are eligible to receive the 2020 Winter Fuel Payment if:
- you were born before 5 April 1954 (obviously the eligibility birth date changes each year)
- you were living in the UK for the duration of the qualifying week (for the financial year 2019-2020 this is 16-22 September 2019)
The Winter Fuel Payment in 2020 will be £200 for those under the age of 80, and £300 for those over 80, although it will be less for those who live in a household with more than one qualifying member.
If you are in receipt of a State Pension or another qualifying benefit your winter fuel allowance will be automatically processed and paid, but if you don’t receive any benefits you may need to make a claim.
To make a claim for Winter Fuel Payment all you need to do is call the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160, and have your National Insurance number and your bank or building society details to hand.
You may also be entitled to a free boiler if you have a household income of less than £16,010 and receive pension credit.
For those struggling to make ends meet with state benefits or private pensions, there are plenty of income-related support options available that help to top-up your income and ensure that you can live more comfortably.
There are two forms of pension credit available; Savings Credit and Guarantee Credit.
- Savings Credit provides you with extra income if your income is above the basic state pension and savings threshold, paying up to £13.20 extra per week for a single person, or £14.90 for a couple. To apply you need to be 65 or over, and there is no limit on savings in order to apply.
- Guarantee Credit tops up a person’s weekly income to reach a statutory minimum amount. For a single person, you could get up to £159.35 per week, whilst couples can receive up to £243.25. To be eligible for Guarantee Credit you must meet one of several qualifying conditions, including:
- Being disabled
- Being a carer
- Earning less than minimum monetary allowances
- Having housing costs such as mortgage repayments.
It is important to note that Pension Credit doesn’t only offer you another income stream, but also provides eligibility for a huge number of other grants and benefits, so it is always worth applying for if you are over the age of 65.
Council Tax Support
While there is no national scheme currently available for elderly people, to support them with their Council Tax, there are plenty of more local schemes and discounts available for those meeting a whole range of eligibility criteria.
If you are in receipt of Guarantee Pension Credit, or a disability benefit, you are likely to get the biggest reduction on council tax, but there are plenty of options available that are dependent on age, income and even your council tax band.
The best way to find out what you could be entitled to is to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.
It can be difficult for elderly people to own a car, if they are struggling to make ends meet with their pension or are suffering with ill health that affects their ability to drive. For this reason there are a wide number of public transport options and benefits dedicated specifically to pensioners.
The government’s free OAP bus pass provides elderly people with a pass that allows them to use the bus at any time of the day or night. Qualification for the bus pass depends on where you live.
- if you live in England you can apply for your bus pass when you reach the female age of retirement, whether you are male or female.
- in London you can travel for free on London Transport at the age of 60, but only within London
- in Wales you can get your bus pass when you turn 60
The London Freedom Pass provides free travel on the National Rail, tram, bus, London Underground and river services all over the city.
To be eligible for this you will need to meet the State Pension age for women, which is currently 66.
However, there is a special Oyster card available to anyone over 60 that also provides free travel around London.
For those who regularly travel by rail, it could be worth looking into a senior railcard, available for those aged 60 and over.
There is a one-off fee for the card, but it then offers drastically reduced fares on the National Rail network all over the country, and a range of other perks including reduced entry to certain attractions and cheaper membership to popular food and art societies.
At the time of writing there is no national government scheme for cheaper coach travel, but you may be able to find great options by searching the operators themselves.
National Express, for example, offers Senior Coach Cards, which cost £10 and offer a third off of all trips on their coaches, for people aged 60 and over.
TV Licence Discounts
Until 1 August 2020, TV licences were free for anyone over 75. These rules have now changed, unless you are in receipt of Pension Credit.
However, OAPs are still able to receive discounts on their TV licence under certain conditions:
- You can still claim a free TV licence if you are at least 75 years old and receive Pension Credit. This covers the entire household, no matter how old the other members are. For an application, you can call TV licensing on 0300 790 6117.
- You can claim a 50% discount on your TV licence if you are blind or sight-impaired, and the licence will cover the entire household, as long as it is in the name of the person who is sight-impaired. You will need to contact TV licensing on the number above to register, and provide them with a certificate from your local authority ophthalmologist to confirm that you are blind or sight-impaired.
- You can get an Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) licence, which costs £7.50, if you are living in a care home or sheltered accommodation and have a private television set in your own accommodation. Staff or the managing authority for your accommodation can do this for you. If you only watch TV in common areas such as a residents lounge then you won’t need to pay for this.
Everyone over the age of 60 in the UK is entitled to free prescriptions.
If you are under the age of 60 and want to save money on prescriptions, or have health issues that mean that your health costs are adding up, it is worth looking into prescription prepayment certificates, that are for periods of 3 months or 12 months, and cover all of your prescriptions for that period, no matter how many you need.
You are entitled to a free NHS sight test, If you are 60 or over and, depending on your circumstances, you could also get help with:
- NHS dental treatment
- the cost of glasses or contact lenses
- NHS wigs
- travel costs to NHS treatment
You will qualify for help with these NHS costs if you receive:
- the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit (in some circumstances)
- Universal Credit (in some cases)
You can find out more about getting help with health costs by calling 0300 330 1343 for an application form, or by speaking with your doctor, dentist or optician.
You could also ask about the NHS Low Income Scheme, if you are on a low income but do not meet any of the criteria listed above.
After a certain age it is normal that we start to face more health problems than before, both physical and mental. For this reason, there is a comprehensive package of disability help and financial support available to UK OAPs, to ensure that they are able to manage disabilities and get the help that they need.
An Attendance Allowance is available for anyone over the age of 65 who requires help from a carer, to help pay for their availability during necessary times.
For those requiring round-the-clock care the weekly rate is £83.10, whilst for those who only need support during the day or the night the rate is around £55.65 per week.
To qualify for Attendance Allowance you must:
- be 65 or older
- have a carer providing support or supervision regularly
- have needed support for at least 6 months
Financial support is also available for those who are suffering from a bereavement.
Many older people have to face the death of a partner or loved one, and sometimes this can mean the loss of someone who was contributing to the bulk of the household income.
Bereavement benefits are not means-tested, meaning that you can apply for them however much you have in savings, or if you are still working, and they provide a buffer during a time that can make it very hard to stay on top of your finances.
In the past there were a number of different benefits including Bereavement Allowance (previously Widow’s Pension), Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Payment available for those who had suffered a loss. These have now been grouped together to form the Bereavement Support Payment system.
The Bereavement Support Payment is applicable to those who have lost a wife, husband or civil partner, and consists of a lump sum payment of £2,500 (£3,500 for those with children). You will then receive 18 monthly instalments of £100 (or £350 for those receiving Child Benefit)
You will be able to claim this benefit if:
- the bereavement happened on or after 6 April 2017
- you are under State Pension age
- it’s been less than three months since your bereavement