One in four people above the age of 65 are struggling to cope financially, yet up to £5.5bn in state financial help is going unclaimed each year, new figures reveal.
There are two key reasons. First, some people are simply too proud or embarrassed to claim for benefits. But others don’t know that they can apply for financial help and in some cases are wrongly told by officials that they aren’t eligible.
The Age UK charity is warning that more must be done to get vital cash to those who need it, as its new research reveals that a quarter of all over-65s feel financially worse off compared with this time last year, and a third are worried about the general cost of living.
The Government’s own figures show that one in 10 pensioners would not be able to pay an unexpected expense of £200 – to replace a broken washing machine, for example – and half of those who could afford to pay would have to dip into their savings to do so.
Yet millions of older people who are struggling to survive on a meagre income could be entitled to benefits such as pension credit, which, if claimed, would provide a boost to their weekly incomes.
In fact, if everyone who is eligible for pension credit made a claim, it would increase their income by an average of £1,716 a year – which would more than cover the average dual-fuel bill, which currently stands at £1,271 a year.
Compounding the misery of living in poverty, many of the poorest pensioners also have to pay more for other essential services such as gas, electricity, insurance and banking, says Age UK.
Its charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “Managing on a low fixed income is really tough, and many people face a daily struggle just to afford the basics.
“That is why is it so important that every older person who is entitled to claim benefits does so. We want any older person who is worried about money to contact us in case they are one of the millions who are entitled to extra help. Everyone should have the opportunity to be able to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.”
To order a free copy of the charity’s updated More Money in Your Pocket guide, or for further information and advice, call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565. You can also contact your local Age UK, or check the online benefits calculator, at ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney.