Pensioners could be entitled to a lot more benefits than they are claiming
Campaigners say pensioners should check to see if they are missing out on payments ranging from the state pension to the warm home discount scheme.
Other missed benefits are pension credit, attendance allowance, disability, council tax, health, and winter fuel allowances and free TV licences.
Low awareness of what is available, combined with a fear of talking to strangers about money problems, explain why many pensioners are struggling to cope with their finances.
Official figures show that up to 1.6 million older Britons are failing to claim around £2.8billion worth of pension credit.
One organisation alone, retirement housing specialist McCarthy & Stone, has helped more than 200 elderly people in the past year to claim £600,000 worth of financial aid.
McCarthy & Stone, which has set up a dedicated benefits advice service for its homeowners, say that 800 people have asked for help in the past 12 months.
Colin Cuthbert, benefits adviser at the company, said: “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.
“Anyone aged 60 or over in England should also know they’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions and sight tests, but many residents who receive Guaranteed Pension Credit don’t realise that this automatically qualifies them for help towards these health costs too, so they can get free NHS dental treatment and a voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.
“They can also receive help with essential travel costs to receive NHS treatment if referred by a doctor or dentist, or if they need to see a consultant.”
Michelle Mitchell, charity director-general of Age UK, said: “There are still 1.8 million people in later life living in poverty and claiming pension credit can make a huge difference.” The Department for Work and Pensions said its figures show that 80 per cent of the poorest pensioners entitled to guaranteed credit were not claiming it.
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
McCarthy and Stone’s Colin Cuthbert
Pensions minister Steve Webb said: “I am very concerned that too many pensioners are missing out on pension credit and other benefits.”