Over a million pensioners are missing out – are you one of them?

Jane Stanfield is one of our Associate Practitioners and leads our sessions on carers’ rights. Jane originally trained and practiced as a solicitor before deciding to move into social care. Having worked with adults with learning disabilities and then older people with dementia, she specialised in supporting carers and over the last 25 years has developed and delivered services for carers and raised awareness of carers’ needs in London, Birmingham and Gloucestershire.

 

 

According to Independent Age’s 2019 report on the low uptake of pension credit, “Credit Where It’s Due – Ending The £3.5 Billion Pension Credit Scandal” up to 1.3 million pensioner households could be missing out. Nearly 40% of those entitled are not claiming the pension credit they could be receiving.  There is underclaiming of many benefits, including carers allowance, so it is always worth a second look to see if you are eligible. This article is primarily concerned with pension credit.

Pension credit is the means-tested benefit for those over state pension age and its thresholds and payments are more generous than the means-tested benefits for those of working age, such as Universal Credit. I will set out some details about it here, but if you just want to know how to make a claim then you will find those details at the bottom of this article.

 

How pension credit is calculated

There is no upper limit on capital for a pension credit claim, so it is possible that despite having savings of over £16,000 – which is the limit for the working age means-test – you may still qualify for a pension credit payment if your income is low.

A calculation is made taking into account your actual income and a “deemed” income from your capital.  The deemed income is taken as £1 a week for every £500 of capital you have over £10,000; anything under £10,000 is ignored.

Pension credit has a significantly higher minimum income guarantee (MIG) than working age benefits.  The MIG is the level to which pension credit will top you up if your income falls below this amount. Currently (October 2020) the standard MIG for a single pensioner is £173.75 a week, and £265.20 for a couple, compared to £74.35 and £116.80 for those of working age.

It is important to note that Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment are not included in the income total – they do not negatively affect means-tested benefits.

In addition to the standard MIG figure, there are other “building blocks” or premiums which can be added to the figure if you qualify. For instance, if you are a carer – even though you cannot receive carers allowance because it overlaps with the state pension – you can qualify for the carer premium on your MIG. The carer premium is currently set at £37.50. You will need to make a claim for carers allowance if you have not already done so, in order to show that you have the “underlying entitlement” even though your state pension stops you actually receiving the allowance. Use this link for how to claim carers allowance.

If you receive attendance allowance or other disability benefit, live alone and no one receives carers allowance for caring for you, then the severe disability premium can be added to your MIG – currently £66.95. If you are a couple, both receiving a disability benefit, then you may still qualify if no one else lives with you and no one receives carers allowance for caring for you.

There is an additional element of “savings credit” which can be paid in some circumstances, even if your income is slightly above the MIG. If you make a claim for pension credit, then this will be calculated for you if it applies.

Receipt of pension credit can lead to receipt of housing benefit and council tax support as well as other benefits such as cold weather payments, free dental treatment and TV license.

 

How to claim pension credit

If this has left you confused then don’t worry. There is nothing to lose by making a claim for pension credit – the calculation will be done for you and you will find out whether you qualify for anything. Despite the headlines about “benefit cheats” in fact far more money is left unclaimed because people do not think they are entitled to it when they could be getting it. If you provide all the information needed you will not be awarded anything you are not entitled to.

You can make a claim by ringing 0800 991 234

Or online here.

Have the following information to hand, and don’t forget that if you are a couple then you will need these details for both of you;

  • national insurance number(s),
  • details of all your income, savings, and investments
  • your bank account details
  • information on any housing costs (e.g. rent and service charges)