Pensioner homeowner? The benefits worth £100s you could be missing out on
Of the half of pensioner homeowners who are entitled to receive benefits, 62% are either failing to claim or are receiving less than they should.
An annual survey by Just, a financial services group, found these individuals are missing out on an average of £576 per year.
Half of the people who were eligible for State help missed out on at least one benefit, one in 15 missed out on two and one in 30 missed out on three.
Stephen Lowe at Just, said: “Far too many pensioner homeowners who are struggling for income are missing out on benefits they are entitled to.
“Take-up rates are far too low and it is costing pensioners dearly. Pensions and benefits are now so complex that few retirees understand all the options without professional help and it is costing them dearly.”
Lowe added that the take-up rates of State benefits are lower among homeowners than non-homeowners. “Yet owning bricks and mortar doesn’t mean you are not struggling financially,” he said.
Here are some of the benefits pensioner homeowners may be entitled to:
State Pension Credit
This is a means-tested benefit which takes into account any savings you have. It ensures that couples or individuals receive a minimum level of income in retirement. It has two parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. According to the latest figures, more than two million pensioners are eligible for Pensions Credit and about £6.7bn was claimed in 2013/14 but £2.9bn was unclaimed.
Guarantee Pensions Credit is the benefit most likely to be claimed by those who are eligible with take-up at around 85%. It tops up weekly income to at least £155.60 for a retired individual or £237.55 for retired couples. To claim, an individual or the oldest member of a couple must have reached ‘Pension Credit qualifying age’ which depends on your date of birth but is effectively equal to the State Pension age for women – rising to 65 by October 2018 and 66 by October 2020.
Savings Pension Credit is an extra payment designed to reward those who saved some money for retirement but would otherwise receive less benefit as a result. It can be up to £13.07 a week for single people and £14.75 a week for couples. To be eligible for Savings Credit you must be 65 or over. Most people who reach State Pension age after 6 April 2016 – the date the higher flat rate state pension was introduced – won’t be able to claim Savings Credit.
Council Tax support
This is a scheme run by local councils. It’s not for pensioners specifically but can be claimed by anyone on a low income. It’s not a payment but a reduction on the normal Council Tax bill and may not cover the whole amount. You will be expected to provide evidence of income and capital and the amount you might get depends on factors such as where you live, your circumstances, your household income and savings, and whether children or other adults live with you. It can only be claimed by those who are responsible for paying council tax, either individually or jointly.
Lowe said there are a range of other benefits that retirees can potentially claim such as Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, industrial injury benefit and help with heating costs to name a few.
“Universal Credit is also being brought in as a simpler, single payment to replace a number of other benefits and, although this is mainly for those of working age, it may have an impact on older couples where one has yet to reach State Pension age.
“Because many benefits are linked to income and people’s income often fluctuates from year-to-year, it is important to regularly review the information to avoid missing out on benefits, or receiving too much benefit which may be clawed back later. Each year in our survey we find people claiming one benefit who are missing out on one or two others that could make a huge difference to their quality of life.”
He lists the government website which has a number of benefits calculators and links to local councils which also provide support and information.