Mayor urges pensioners not to miss out on their pension credits
- 200,000 pensioners in London (20 per cent) are living in poverty
- 30,000 carers also not taking up benefits they are entitled to
- 174,000 pensioners in London are missing out on an extra £35 a week, or £1,800 a year, in benefits.
As temperatures drop and with pressure on household budgets, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is urging pensioners and carers to check they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to as part of this year's 'Know Your Rights' campaign.
Older people often feel there is a stigma to claiming all the benefits they are eligible for and many pensioners in the capital are unaware that they are entitled to Pension Credit, or unclear about how to claim, with one in three of those who are eligible missing out. Other vulnerable groups that could be entitled to extra help include London's carers, with more than 30,000 estimated to be missing out on up to £58.45 a week in Carers' Allowance.
The Know Your Rights campaign is now underway. Older Londoners and carers are being urged to call Age UK, or contact their local Citizens Advice Bureaux for a benefits check to ensure they are receiving all the support and payments they are entitled to. The Age UK number is 0800 169 6565. Information posters and leaflets will appear in local papers, GP surgeries, libraries, children's centres and community centres across London. Age UK are also running several awareness-raising events across London aimed at helping older people to find out if they can claim help.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'As temperatures plummet many households face extra pressure on their budgets as their fuel bills increase. I would urge pensioners to pick up the phone and make one simple call to check they are receiving all the financial support they are entitled to.'
Deputy Mayor of London Victoria Borwick said: 'It is of major concern if one in three older Londoners eligible to claim Pension Credits is not doing so. There is also a fantastic army of carers, who are doing a vitally important job, but might not be aware that they are eligible for assistance. The Know Your Rights Campaign is all about ensuring pensioners and carers receive the financial support they are due.'
The Know Your Rights campaign is carried out in partnership with Age UK London, Citizens Advice,Carers Trust and supported by Carers UK, Capitalise, London's Debt Advice Partnership, DWP’s Pension, Disability and Carers Service, London Councils and all libraries across London. This is the fifth year that the Know Your Rights Campaign is running.
An important way to keep fuel bills as low as possible is to insulate your home. The Mayor, in partnership with a number of local authorities has recently been awarded £5.6m funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, £5.36 of which will be used to help vulnerable householders keep warm this winter. One of the key target groups for this funding is people whose sole income is their pension. This funding will be delivered as part of the Mayor's RE:NEW programme which is making homes more energy efficient. To find out if you can benefit from this, visit www.london.gov.uk/renew.
Chief Executive of Age UK London, Samantha Mauger, said: “We have seen the real and positive differences that this campaign can make to the lives of older people in London. Last year over a thousand people attended our local events. As a result £90,000 in unclaimed benefits were taken up and people accessed important information and advice. It's vitally important that older people receive the benefits they’ve earned throughout their lives.”
Carers UK Chief Executive Heléna Herklots said: “Caring for an older or disabled loved one can bring huge financial pressures. Yet many families may not see themselves as ‘carers’, aren’t given advice and miss out support like Carer’s Allowance to help with the costs of caring. So if you’re a carer for a relative, or know someone who is, make sure to access advice on the support available.”
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “Far too many pensioners and carers are missing out on vital extra cash they should be getting, often skimping on heating and proper meals because they are worried about the cost. We want people to know they can get a free, confidential benefit check at their local CAB. Our experienced and expert advisers can make sure they are getting all the help they are entitled to.”
PENSION CREDITS & CARER BENEFITS
If your pension is less than £142 a week or if your joint pension is less than £217 a week you could be missing out on Pension Credits.
A pensioner who is eligible to claim Pension Credit may also be entitled to claim additional benefits including warm home discount which entitles them to £130 a year, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
If you are a carer who earns less than £100 per week and are caring for 35 hours a week or more for an older person who receives a qualifying benefit you too should check you are receiving what you are entitled to by calling the Carers Trust adviceline on 0844 800 4361.
Notes to editors
For more information go to www.london.gov.uk/know-your-rights
The Age UK phone line 0800 169 6565 is open from 8am-7pm, 365 days a year.
The most recent figures for 2008/9 to 2012/11 show 20 per cent of pensioners in London are living in poverty, using the government’s measure of having an income below 60 per cent of the national media for the same type of household, after housing costs are taken into account - this is 200,000 people. A further nine per cent (90,000) pensioners live on the margins of poverty, between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the median. These figures are from the DWP June 2012.
Pension Credit - There are two parts of Pension Credit – older people may be eligible to receive one or both of them. Guarantee Credit tops up weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level set up by the Government. Savings Credit is extra money for people who have an income higher than the Basic State Pension or who have a small amount of savings. The minimum age to qualify for guarantee credit is gradually rising from age 60 to 66. The current minimum age is 65. Pension Credit is means-tested so income and savings are taken into account when it is worked out. Pension Credit includes help towards mortgage payments and service charges for home owners and extra money for people who receive Carers Allowance or disability benefits. It's worth claiming Pension Credit even if you are only entitled to a small amount, as it can help you qualify for other benefits.
As well as state pension, the main payments for pensioners are the winter fuel payment, freedom pass for travel, a free TV licence at age 75 and like other groups including children and people with certain medical conditions free prescriptions and eye tests. Older people may also be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Credit.
Age UK London will be running several awareness-raising events across London aimed at helping older people with finding out if they are eligible for benefits. The first of several information and advice events is taking place at Age UK Ealing, 135 Uxbridge Road, Ealing,W13.
Carers can call the Carers Trust on 0844 800 4361 to be directed to their local carers centre to receive one to one advice , or they can visit its website: www.carers.org
Carers UK’s website includes advice and information on accessing financial, practical and emotional support with caring for an older or disabled loved one and support for families juggling work and care – visit www.carersuk.org