Older people in Greater Manchester are being urged to check if they are eligible for pension top up payments after figures revealed approximately 36,000 qualifying households are missing out on around £70m in unclaimed pension credit.
Pension credit, a benefit designed to bring the weekly income of pensioners up to a minimum amount, could make those who are eligible £34 a week better off on average with some people able to claim much higher amounts.
Greater Manchester Housing Providers, a partnership of 24 social housing providers, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, through its Ageing Hub, are encouraging people to take up pension age benefits as part of their Pension Top Up campaign.
The campaign, supported by Independent Age, Age UK and Citizens Advice, encourages everyone to ask older family members and friends to check if they qualify for more income and know how to get assistance if needed.
The squeeze on living standards caused by rising inflation and high energy bills has made it even more important for people to check if they are entitled to pension credit, attendance allowance and housing benefit. In addition to extra income, receiving pension credit also unlocks other financial benefits such as a free TV licence for over 75s, council tax support and grants for insulation and other green home improvements.
Karen Mitchell, Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Ageing Well Lead and Chief Executive of Southway Housing Trust, said: “For many people that bit of extra income can make a crucial difference between struggling to pay the bills and living more comfortably. With more households struggling to meet the cost of living, we urge people to find out if they are eligible for pension credit and other support.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “With so much pressure on household finances, it’s vital that older people are getting all the money they are entitled to. A third of those eligible for pension credit in Greater Manchester aren’t claiming, with many missing out on income from attendance allowance and housing benefit too. If you own your own home or have a private pension you could still be eligible, so please take a moment now and check – for yourself or your loved ones. It’s going to be another tough winter and getting this top-up could make all the difference.”
Over the last year the campaign has generated £3m of additional income to residents that can be directly evidenced, though the true figure is thought to be much higher.
As part of this work, GMCA also researched the reasons why people tend not to claim. Barriers include perceived ineligibility and apprehension about the application process.
Karen adds: “We also discovered that some people are worried that claiming might impact other benefits they receive. However, qualifying for pension credit often prompts more financial support and people also find out there are other benefits they are entitled to but not claiming.”
Jean*, aged 86, from Gorton, said: “Pension Credit has helped me with lots of the costs including food, clothing and bedding. My son helped me fill the forms out – I wouldn’t be able to do it without his help.”
To check if you or a loved one are getting all the entitlements you are due, contact Independent Age at www.independentage.org/get-support or through their freephone helpline on 0800 319 6789, or speak with your social housing provider.
*Name has been changed.
Brian’s story: Brian’s wife had recently passed away and he had various chronic health issues including struggling with his mobility. As he was only in receipt of state pension, Brian’s housing provider completed a benefit entitlement check on his behalf. This highlighted a pension credit entitlement, as well as an entitlement to attendance allowance due to his mobility issues. Brian was awarded attendance allowance of £89.60 per week, £10 a week increase to his state pension, and £69 per week in pension credit. With the payments backdated, Brian became £9,000 per year better off. He said: “I cannot thank my housing provider enough for highlighting my entitlement to pension credit. If they hadn’t got involved, sent off the forms and guided me through it all, I would not have been able to do it myself. It just wouldn’t have got done and I would still be really struggling financially.”
Brenda’s story: Brenda had reached state pension age and was worried about how she was going to pay her bills. After being referred by her housing provider’s tenancy sustainment team, her housing association completed a check which showed an entitlement to pension credit of £60 per week. The team helped Brenda to apply for the pension credit and also submitted a claim for housing benefit alongside this, which has put her a much better financial situation.
Frank’s story: Following a long-term hospital stay, Frank was referred to his housing provider’s money advice team for a benefit entitlement check. At the time his only income was his state pension. Due to his mobility issues, he was relying on family to friends to take him to appointments and get shopping as he couldn’t use public transport. The money advice team managed to maximise his income by applying for both attendance allowance and pension credit, meaning an increase in income of £124.80 per week. This enabled Frank to purchase his own small car and regain some of his independence.
Christina’s story: Christina was referred to her housing provider for help with an attendance allowance application. Christina was in receipt of state pension and a small amount of pension credit already. However, because she lives alone and no one claims carer’s allowance for her, it created a severe disability premium. Support was given to Christina contacting the pension service and following this her pension credit increased by an extra £60.00 per week and she also received attendance allowance. Christina said she wouldn’t have known about the increase in her pension credit without support and she is now better off £121.85 per week and doesn’t have to worry about putting her heating on.
Greater Manchester – Estimated breakdown of unclaimed pension credit
|Locality||Estimate Pension Credit unclaimed||Estimated eligible households not claiming|
Research also suggests that the estimated cost of unclaimed pension credit to the Greater Manchester health and social care sector is as much as £180 million.