As you get older you become eligible for a range of benefits, discounts and grants. The type and nature of these benefits vary greatly and can provide essential assistance when you need it. Unfortunately, many of the benefits available to pensioners are not claimed year after year and a potential reason for this is people simply not being aware of what is available to them.
According to Age UK, over three billion pounds of pension credit and benefits go unclaimed despite millions of elderly people struggling financially. At times, making ends meet can be a struggle and a helping hand can make the world of difference. We have created this guide to help you make sure you’re getting the benefits you’re entitled to.
Age related benefits
Benefits are often thought of as something you are able to utilise if you are financially struggling or unwell. That’s not the case! Some benefits and many of the benefits listed below are age-related meaning that if you are over a certain age, no matter what your health or income, you are entitled to the financial aid or services. There are certain benefits that are based on factors including health and income too. The requirements vary greatly between each benefit or grant so it is always worth finding out more information or applying just in case you are entitled to the assistance.
Age related benefits include travel discounts, winter fuel payment, insulation grants, free eye tests and prescriptions, TV licence discounts and attendance allowance.
As you get older, you may not be able to continue driving due to medical reasons or you may choose not to drive or have the worry of maintaining and paying for a vehicle anymore. This does not mean your freedom and independence is lost, in fact there are a few transport discounts that can help keep your travel costs down. Whether you prefer buses or trains, you will be able to reduce transport costs with the following:
There are several offers available when it comes to bus travel, the details and requirements vary slightly depending on when you live:
- If you live in England or Wales, when you reach the female state pension age (this applies whether you are a man or a woman) you can get a bus pass that allows you to travel for free at any time.
- If you live in London and are 60 or older you can travel on London Transport for free using an Oyster photocard, but this only applies within the London area.
- If you live in London and are over 66 years old, you are eligible for a London Freedom Pass. This allows you to travel for free across London as well as on local bus journeys throughout England.
- If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you are eligible for an older person’s bus pass when you are 60.
When it comes to traveling by train, although there is no free pass, you can buy a Senior Railcard for a one-off fee. This railcard is available to people over 60, it costs £30 a year and gives you discounts of up to ⅓ on rail travel across the UK. There are terms and conditions to the Senior Railcard, for example, it cannot be used during peak morning times within London and the South East Network from Monday – Friday. You can order a Senior Railcard online or apply for one at most manned train stations.
If you are a British National and were born on or before 2 September 1929 you are eligible for a free passport. However, if you need a passport urgently or require a 50 page passport rather than a standard 34 page passport costs will apply.
Boiler/ Energy Discounts
Keeping your house warm can be costly, fortunately there are several payments and discounts available that help to take the worry out of winter energy bills. Your energy supplier may also be able to provide you with additional support, this is available if you sign up to the Priority Services Register and can get you assistance with a range of energy-related tasks including; reading your energy meter, moving your meter and getting your bills sent to someone else such as a carer.
Winter Fuel Payment
This is a payment of between £100 – £300 to help pay your heating bills, you are eligible for this if you were born on or before 5 November 1953. If you are eligible and you get state pension or another social security benefit you should receive this payment automatically. Payments are made between November and December. If you are eligible but do not receive this payment automatically you will need to make a claim.
Cold Weather Payments
These are payments available between 1st November and 31st March, they consist of £25 per 7 day period of very cold weather (0 degrees celsius or less). You should receive the payment up to 14 days after the period of cold weather. You will usually get this if you are receiving pension credit.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
If you are on a low income or receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit you may be eligible for £140 off your electricity bill. This payment is not paid directly to you, it is discounted from your energy bill. You may be able to receive the discount on your gas bill instead, if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. You should receive a letter detailing how to get this discount if you are eligible. Not all suppliers offer this discount, so if you are thinking about switching suppliers make sure the new supplier participates in the scheme to avoid an increase in your bills.
There are also various grants available that partially or fully cover the cost of improving your homes insulation or getting a new boiler, these changes can help keep your home warm while also reducing your energy costs. Generally, the following grants are available when the oldest person in the household is over 70 years old:
- Loft Insulation – if your home is insufficiently insulated you could be losing up to a third of heat. By insulating your loft it can help keep your home warm and will reduce your heating bills. According to Which? you could save up to £130 a year by insulating your loft in a semi-detached house.
- Cavity Wall Insulation – installing cavity wall insulation is a simple, relatively quick job that helps your home retain heat. Many homes will benefit from cavity wall insulation, particularly homes built between 1924 – 1982.
- Solid Wall Insulation – as cavity wall insulation is not suitable for all homes and heat also escapes through solid walls, there are solid wall insulation grants available too.
- Boilers – a new boiler would be more energy efficient, would reduce fuel waste and would also help reduce energy costs. As a new boiler can be very expensive there are new boiler grants that can reduce the cost substantially – you could pay as little as £240 including fitting.
Free or discounted loft or wall insulation is offered by some energy suppliers as part of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. Insulation and boiler grants may also be available as part of the Affordable Warmth scheme.
NHS Health Costs
Anyone over 60 years old can get free eye tests and free prescriptions. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be eligible for other benefits including; assistance with travel costs when receiving NHS treatment, free NHS dental treatment, free NHS wigs/ fabric support and assistance with glasses and contact lens costs.
This income-related credit can help you with some extra finances during retirement. You are eligible for pension credit if you have a weekly income of £163 or less and are an eligible age (the age is based on your gender and date of birth and is subject to change). If you are a carer you may be entitled to Carer Premium too which is worth up to £36 a week.
Pension Credit comes in two parts; guarantee credit and savings credit. Guarantee credit tops up your weekly income to a minimum of £163 a week. Savings credit can give you a boost of up to £13.40 a week. You are only eligible for savings credit if you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016.
Pension Credit offers more than a financial aid, if you are eligible it can also assist with Council Tax, rent, mortgage interest, ground rent and service charges, cold weather payment, NHS dental treatment and more.
Council Tax Support
This helps people with low income, or those receiving certain benefits, pay their Council Tax bill. If you are receiving the Guaranteed Credit part of Pension Credit your Council Tax may be paid in full for you. There are also discounts available for pensioners depending on their situation, for example if they live alone.
TV Licence Discounts
There are currently several discounts available on TV licence fees depending on your age and situation. People aged 75+ can get a TV licence for free, this covers you and whoever you live with regardless of their age. You can get a short term licence if you are 74 that covers you until you are 75.
A 50% discount is available for people who are severely sight impaired or blind.
If you live in a care home and watch TV in your own accommodation (not in a common area or communal living room), you can get a Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) licence which costs £7.50.
Discounts for TV licences are not given out automatically and need to be applied for. With this in mind, if you have paid the full price for a TV licence but think you are eligible for a discount you can apply for a refund by contacting TV licencing.
This allowance applies to people over the State Pension age who have a disability or an illness that means they require additional help at home, whether that is help with personal care or supervision.
The Attendance Allowance rate for April 2019 – April 2020 is separated into two depending on the requirements. There is a lower rate of £57.30 for people who require help during the day or during the night and there is a higher rate of £85.60 for people who require help during the day and during the night, or are terminally ill. This allowance can be a huge help and is tax free. The attendance allowance won’t reduce any other income you receive and may help you to receive other benefits. The eligibility of this is not based on your income or savings, it is based on your age and health.
If you are caring for someone you may be eligible for this allowance. You may not consider yourself a carer and still be able to receive this. You can apply for a carers allowance if you:
- Spend 35 hours or more a week caring for a disabled person
- Care for someone who receives Disability Living Allowance (higher or middle-rate), Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance.
- Earn less than £120 a week
- Are not in full-time education
Carers allowance is worth £64.60 per week.
Dealing with Bereavement (Payments & Allowances)
Bereavement benefits are available to people who have lost their spouse or civil partner. These benefits can help to ease any financial worries that are being faced and are available whether you are in work or not.
As of 6 April 2017, there is a new bereavement support available called Bereavement Support Payment. This is a lump sum of £2,500 (or £3,500 if you have children) followed by £100 monthly instalments for 18 months (this is increased to £350 if you are eligible for Child Benefit). These bereavement payments are disregarded when it comes to calculating entitlement to means-tested benefits.
If the bereavement occurred before 6 April 2017, the available allowances are:
- Bereavement Allowance – this is a weekly payment for one year. The amount you get is dependent on your age and the National Insurance contribution record of your partner.
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance – this is an allowance that is paid if you have dependent children. The amount paid depends on the National Insurance contribution record of your partner. The standard weekly rate for a Widowed Parent’s Allowance is £117.10 and is taxable.
- Bereavement Payment- this is a £2,000 lump sum that is tax-free.
Benefits for Seniors Summary
As you can see, there are many benefits available for pensioners. If you are in a situation where you are financially struggling, there is a very good chance that some kind of support is available and we hope this guide helps to point you in the right direction for that assistance. Even if you do not require any assistance now, you may be able to enjoy some of the benefits we listed above anyway (e.g. a new boiler, better loft insulation, discounted energy bills) and it is good to know what benefits exist should you need them further down the line. Being aware can also help you avoid paying for things you could be getting for free, for example bus travel or a TV licence. With millions of elderly people struggling with their finances, knowing what help is available is vital.