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15/09/2022

Financial support available for pensioners during the cost of living crisis

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The cost of living crisis has highlighted an urgent need for further financial support for millions of people before the latest energy price cap comes into force on October 1. 

In her first major move since becoming PM, Liz Truss confirmed annual energy bills will be frozen at £2,500 until 2024 as part of a broad stimulus package to ensure the UK never finds itself in a similar position again. 

 

The cost of living crisis has highlighted an urgent need for further financial support for millions of people before the latest energy price cap comes into force on October 1. 

In her first major move since becoming PM, Liz Truss confirmed annual energy bills will be frozen at £2,500 until 2024 as part of a broad stimulus package to ensure the UK never finds itself in a similar position again. 

However, with older people expected to be amongst the hardest hit when energy bills increase and millions of pensioners facing a lifetime of insecurity, financial support is needed sooner rather than later.

In this blog, we’ll outline the financial support available for pensioners amidst the cost of living crisis and whether further help is expected to be announced in the coming months. 

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Winter Fuel Payment 

Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) is a non-means tested benefit of between £100 and £300 designed to help pensioners that meet certain criteria cover the cost of rising energy bills at this time of year.  

If you were born on or before September 25 1956, have lived in the UK for a day or more during the qualifying week (September 19 to 25 2022) or have claimed before and your circumstances haven’t changed, you are automatically eligible and there is no need to make a claim for 2022-2023.

However, if you only receive Housing Benefit, Child Benefit or Universal Credit or have claimed before and your circumstances have changed, you must make a claim before the March 31 deadline by calling the Winter Fuel Payment Centre. 

 

Cost of living payment 

In May, Rishi Sunak announced a £21 billion package of financial support to help the UK’s most vulnerable households tackle the cost of living crisis. 

This included a financial boost of between £150 and £300 for pensioners with the cash expected to be paid alongside WFP in November or December (before the January 13 2023 deadline). 

The amount you’ll receive depends on your individual circumstances during the qualifying week but with WFP ranging from £250 and £600, the total amount you can receive this year is £900. 

If you claim other benefits, such as Pension Credit, you might also be eligible for other cost of living payments, such as the £650 payment for low-income households, to help you tackle the rising cost of living.

 

Pension Credit 

Pension Credit is the principal element of the UK benefits system for pensioners and was introduced to help older people budget for various housing costs, such as ground rent and service charges.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that the average annual amount is around £3,300 but the amount you’ll receive depends on your individual circumstances with your weekly income topped up to £182.60 a week if you’re single and £278.70 a week if you have a partner. 

However, unlike other financial support available for pensioners, you won’t automatically receive Pension Credit and must make a claim when you reach the State Pension age of 66 (or up to four months before). 

According to the DWP, as much as 850,000 pensioners are currently missing out on an extra £3,300 a year with an estimated £1.7 billion in Pension Credit going unclaimed.

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Free TV licence 

Between 2000 and 2020, pensioners over the age of 75 were eligible for a free TV licence. However, since the concession was overturned, only pensioners in receipt of Pension Credit have been eligible for a free TV licence. 

There have been calls for the BBC to reintroduce a free TV licence for pensioners over the age of 75, as well as the country’s poorest households, amidst the ongoing cost of living crisis but there are currently no plans to bring it back. 

This comes as studies show a growing number of pensioners are no longer using their TV in a bid to avoid paying the £159 annual fee and France announces it will be scrapping its TV licence in a move that has led to calls for UK ministers to follow suit. 

 

Attendance Allowance 

Attendance Allowance is a benefit paid to disabled pensioners in the UK that live independently but might otherwise have care needs and require residential care. 

The level of financial support you’ll receive, like most other benefits, depends on your individual circumstances but you must be able to prove you have needed help with your care needs for a minimum of six months before you make a claim (there is no deadline if you are terminally ill). 

For example, you could receive the lower rate of £61.85 or the higher rate of £92.40 a week depending on the level of care you require to help with support needs if you’re physically or mentally disabled and the State Pension age or older. 

There is also no need to prove you have a formal diagnosis or are actively receiving care and, because your income or savings aren’t assessed during the application process, it won’t impact any other benefits you’re receiving. 

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