Mayor urges pensioners to check their benefits as £470m goes unclaimed

28 January 2016

With one in six older Londoners estimated to be living in poverty, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is urging pensioners to check that they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to as part of this year's Know Your Rights campaign, which is run in partnership with Age UK London.

The Greater London Authority estimates that around 200,000 older Londoners are living in poverty[1] and one in three are missing out on Pension Credit worth an average of £23 a week, or £1,200 a year[2], simply because they are unaware they are eligible for it, or because they feel too embarrassed to make a claim. This is money that can make a real difference, when it comes to being able to heat their homes during the winter months and budgeting for the weekly food shop.

Although the number of pensioners living in poverty in the capital has fallen by 100,000 in the last decade[3], older people in London are much more likely to be living in material deprivation than anywhere else in the country. Nearly three times the proportion of pensioners living in inner London are unable to afford basics like having a warm winter coat, being able to keep their home damp free and having a regular haircut.[4]

The Know Your Rights campaign last year helped pensioners to claim an estimated £1.2 million in benefits that would have otherwise gone unclaimed[5]. The campaign aims to ensure older Londoners don’t miss out on the £470 million worth of benefits not being claimed each year[6], including Pension Credit and other benefits they could be eligible for.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘It is vital that older Londoners get all the support they are entitled to including Pension Credit, a benefit that will make a big difference to their lives, particularly during the cold winter months. I urge all pensioners across the capital to visit or call their local Age UK centre to seek advice and ensure they get all the benefits and support that they are eligible for.’

Launching this year's campaign at Age UK’s Romford Hub, the Deputy Mayor of London, Roger Evans, said: 'It is sad that an estimated 200,000 older Londoners could be struggling to pay for basic items like food and heating because they do not know what benefits they can claim. The Know Your Rights campaign has an army of people ready to help pensioners to get the support they are entitled to, so get on the phone now to Age UK and look out for information at GP surgeries and libraries.'

Chief Executive of Age UK London, Samantha Mauger, said: 'We can’t accept the possibility of 200,000 older Londoners potentially struggling to pay their bills or having to choose between food and fuel. It is important that older Londoners ensure that they claim the benefits they are entitled to, many still do not. Age UK London welcomes the Know Your Rights campaign and we urge older Londoners to contact their local Age UKs and ensure they get advice on what benefits they are entitled to receive.'

Older Londoners can call Age UK, or contact their local Citizens Advice Bureaux for advice about benefits and other support they might be able to claim. The Age UK advice line is 0800 169 2081 and they are hosting information and advice sessions at participating local Age UK centres around the capital from 28 January to the end of April.

PENSION CREDIT

  • You could be eligible for Pension Credit if you are a single pensioner and your pension is less than £151.20, or if you are couple and your joint pension is less than £230.85.
  • Those entitled to claim Pension Credit and other benefits may also be entitled to additional financial help with their fuel bills, including:
  • The Warm Home Discount Scheme, worth £140 a year
  • Cold Weather Payment of £25 per year
  • Discounts on their energy bills, or a reduced energy tariff

 

Notes to editors

  1. Information sources:
    1. Greater London Authority Intelligence estimates that there are 200,000 Londoners of pensionable age (one in six) living in poverty in London.
    2. Latest figures from Income-Related Benefits: Estimates of Take-up - Financial Year 2013/14 (experimental)
    3. Department for Work and Pensions’ Households Below Average Income datasets, 2001/02-2013/14
    4. Department for Work and Pensions’  Households Below Average Income Report 1994/5 -2014/15
    5. Based on data collected from Age UK centres, the Greater London Authority estimates that last year’s campaign helped older Londoners to claim £1,216,879 in benefits.
    6. Based on figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Greater London Authority estimates that there could be around 150,000 older Londoners together missing out on as much as £470million per year in unclaimed benefits.
  2. The Age UK helpline 0800 169 2081 is open from 8am-7pm, 365 days a year.
  3. The Greater London Authority estimates for 2014-15 that 18 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 median for the same type of household, after housing costs are taken into account - this is 200,000 people.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Age UKs across London will be running several awareness-raising events across London aimed at helping older people with finding out if they are eligible for benefits. See Age UK London's website for a list of all events: www.ageuk.org.uk/london