Billions unclaimed as pensioners are befuddled by benefits system

Confusion over the UK benefits system is stopping pensioners from claiming much-needed cash, according to Age Concern.

New research carried out for the charity has found that six out of 10 lower-income pensioners are put off by problems such as over-complex paperwork and a feeling that means-testing is too intrusive. In addition, it seems, some retired people are simply too embarrassed to claim what is due to them.

Age Concern is urging them not to be deterred by the system, as drawing the benefits could dramatically improve their standard of living. More than £2.5bn in council tax benefit and pension credit goes unused each year, often by those most in need of state help. A third of all people entitled to the pension credit fail to claim it.

"Many pensioners are put off because they find the system confusing. Yet this is money that is rightfully theirs and, if claimed, could make a big difference to their weekly income," said Gordon Lishman, director- general of Age Concern. "Older people shouldn't let the system get the better of them."

Mr Lishman added that the problem of pensioner hardship was most acute among black and ethnic minority groups, where, according to government figures, 26 per cent of older people live in poverty.