Every year in the UK, a staggering £3.7bn worth of benefits fail to be claimed by the older generation. Whilst some people might not actually need the grants and financial support, these opportunities are a lifeline to others. Many of the benefits are means-tested and income related, but others are based only on someone’s age meaning they’re practically guaranteed. Meanwhile, other benefits provide financial help during difficult times; if you experience bereavement, for example.
If you’re retired and are wondering what government help you’re eligible for, read on. You can also use an online benefits calculator to establish whether there are funds you can take advantage of. This is especially true if you’re having difficulty make ends meet and a little extra income would make all the difference to your independence and standard of living.
A lot of the benefits available to the older generation only look at someone’s age as a qualifier. This means that even if you’re fit, healthy and have a good income, you could still receive some money or alternative financial help, such as free goods and services.
Owning a car can be expensive, especially if you’re trying to make ends meet on a pension. There might also be reasons you can’t drive; medical conditions or loss of sight, for example. Luckily there are various forms of benefits available, allowing for free or discounted travel on a range of public transport.
- Bus Pass
The government offers a free bus pass for elderly people that can be used at any time of day or night (there’s no need to worry about peak travel times, for example). Qualification depends on where you live and your date of birth. Simply contact your local authority to see when you’re eligible.
- London Freedom Pass
If you live in London, you can take advantage of the London Freedom Pass and travel on the capital’s national rail, tram, bus, London underground and river services at no cost. Eligibility for this pass works according to the State Pension age for women, so if you were born on October 6th, 1954, or thereafter, you can’t get the free pass until you’re 66. If you don’t yet qualify for the pass, you can still get a special Oyster card when you’re 60 that provides free travel around London.
- Senior Railcard
If you frequently travel by rail, it might be worth buying a senior railcard. A one-time fee is charged for this discount card, which is available to you if you’re 60 years old or over. There are other perks too, including reduced membership costs for certain food and art societies.
- Coach Discounts
Though the government don’t offer any national scheme for reductions in coach travel, many individual operators provide senior discounts. National Express, for example, offers Senior Coach Cards for the 60 and overs. It costs £10, and you can get a third off all your trips.
TV Licence Discounts
Every home in Britain that watches television, regardless of whether it’s via a TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone or other device, requires a TV licence. However, there a certain circumstances when you could get a discount. These include:
- If you’re disabled or retired and live in specific accommodation.
- If you’re registered as severely sight impaired or blind.
- If you’re aged 75 or over.
- If someone in your house (your spouse, for example) is aged 75 or over.
The licensing company doesn’t automatically provide the discount, so you will need to apply for a free TV licence and supply your date of birth and a form of ID, such as your National insurance number or a photocopy of your driving licence. If you’re applying for a discount because someone in your house is aged over 75, the licence must be in their name. Finally, there is also an option to buy a short-term licence when you’re 74. Doing so means that the licence will automatically switch to the free variety on your 75th birthday.
Winter Fuel Payment
The final age-related benefit is the Winter Fuel Allowance that’s financed by the government. This money can be put towards your heating bill, helping to stave off cold-related illnesses like hypothermia and heart attacks.
The Winter Fuel Payment is usually automatic if you are eligible. You should receive your money before 31st December. For the year 2016/17, the benefit was £200 for those under 80, and £300 for those who were aged 80 and over.
There is also a Cold Weather Payment that’s available if the temperature takes a particularly drastic turn for the worse. When the weather is forecast to be 0°C or below for seven consecutive days between November 1st and March 31st you can claim an additional £25 per week.
In addition to the guaranteed financial help the elderly receive, there are many more benefits to take advantage of if your income is particularly low. These can help top-up your finances and ensure you can make ends meet without compromising your quality of life.
Pension Credit comes in two forms; Savings Credit and Guarantee Credit. Whilst the former offers extra cash if your income is above the basic state pension and/or savings threshold, the latter tops up weekly income to a minimum amount. Guarantee Credit will top a weekly pension income up to £159.35 if you’re single, and £243.25 for a couple. Meanwhile, you could get £13.20 extra per week with Savings Credit if you’re single. For couples this rises slightly to £14.90.
Despite around four million people being entitled to Pension Credit, a third of pensioners still don’t claim it. Therefore, it’s essential to check whether you qualify. Claiming pension credit doesn’t only offer an instant monetary reward, but can open the doorway to other benefits too.
- Claiming Guarantee Credit
To qualify for Guarantee Credit you need to meet at least one requirement. These include being severely disabled, being a carer, having to pay housing costs like mortgage repayments, or earning less than the minimum thresholds for single or couple allowances.
- Claiming Savings Credit
If you’re 65 or more, you could be eligible for Savings Credit. Though there’s not limit on savings, if you have more than £10,000, any payment is likely to decrease.
As mentioned, claiming Pension Credit can open the doors to many other savings. For example, if you receive credit, it’s unlikely you’ll have to pay council tax. If you rent your accommodation, then Housing Benefit might fully cover the costs, whilst there’s also the potential to get help paying off the interest on mortgage debt. In addition, you could benefit from free dental treatment on the NHS, as well as money towards glasses and travelling to and from hospital.
NHS Health Costs
When you turn 60, you’ll be entitled to free eye tests and prescriptions. However, depending on your circumstances, you might also qualify for other discounts. If you or your partner receives Guarantee Credit, then you may be able to get:
- Free NHS dental treatment
- Free NHS wigs and fabric supports
- Discounts on contact lenses and glasses
- Money towards the cost of travelling to hospitals and clinics for any NHS treatment
You can find out more about NHS voucher qualification here.
Council Tax Support
Most families in Britain have to pay council tax on their homes. The rate depends on where you live and the type of property you live in, but bills can still be quite expensive even for the smallest home. As a result, it’s extremely worthwhile finding out whether you could get a discount.
There is no national scheme; rather, each council has their own support initiatives that you can apply to. The amount of money you get depends on things like savings, income, age and your council tax band. You’ll probably get a larger discount if you’re receiving carer’s or disability benefit, whilst the whole thing might be paid for you if you have Guarantee Pension Credit. Find out more at the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Grants for Disabilities and Caregiving
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that as we age, we often become afflicted with mental health issues or physical disabilities. There are a variety of benefits you can claim if you’re in a difficult situation such as this, with both you and your carer able to get some financial support. Making the most of these benefits is essential as it can make life a little easier.
If you’re unable to properly look after yourself, then you can apply for an Attendance Allowance to help pay carers for their services and time. If you only need aid during the day or night, you can expect a weekly payment of around £55.65. Meanwhile, if you need help during the day and at night too, you may qualify for the £83.10 weekly rate.
Attendance Allowances are generally awarded to those who:
- Are 65 years old or more
- Will benefit from a carer who can help with their personal care or supervision
- Have a terminal illness
- Have needed support for a minimum of six months
One of the perks of the Attendance Allowance is that it isn’t means tested so you can receive it regardless of the savings or income you have. It also won’t affect other payments you get, so there’s no need to worry about losing money from other areas. In addition, you don’t actually have to use the income to pay for a carer. It’s simply some financial support to help make life easier and allow prolonged independence.
One of the widely available benefits is the carer’s allowance, and though this can be claimed by any carer, it’s particularly useful if you’re elderly and having to care for your partner. As long as you qualify, you’ll receive £62.70 per week. This can really help if you’re both retired and need a little more financial support to make yourselves more comfortable.
In a lot of cases, people don’t actually see themselves as a carer. For example, you might have been looking after your spouse for many years as any loving partner would. However, it’s important to recognise the role you’re doing and claim the benefit you’re entitled to.
To claim Carer’s Allowance you need to spend a minimum of 35 hours a week caring for someone disabled who, because of their disability, receives benefits such as an Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
Dealing With Bereavement
Though you might not expect it, you can actually get financial help if you’re dealing with bereavement. At a time of intense emotional turmoil, it can be hard to keep your finances in check. Money can be even more of a struggle if the loved one who died supplied much of your household’s income. Bereavement benefits are not means tested, so you can receive them even if you’re working.
- Bereavement Payment
If your spouse or civil partner died before 6th April 2017 you may claim a £2,000 tax-free lump sum to help support yourself. Your husband, wife or civil partner must have made National Insurance contributions during their lifetime. It’s also important they were not entitled to a Category A State Pension. Meanwhile, you need to be under State Pension age when they died.
- Bereavement Allowance
If your spouse or civil partner died after 6th April 2017 you may be entitled to a weekly bereavement allowance that’s paid for a year after your partner’s death. The same qualifications are required to claim this benefit, and the amount of financial support available depends on your own age and National Insurance contributions. The allowance is also taxable. If you’re aged between 45 and 54 you get a weekly payment between £34.11 and £105.74. If you’re 55 or over, but below the State Pension age, you can claim £113.70.
When you’re older, it might seem that the right thing to do is just struggle onwards and not make a fuss. However, there is financial help available, and to live a more financially stable, comfortable and independent life, it’s essential to claim what you can.