Half of pensioners not claiming benefit

HALF of all pensioners in Suffolk and north Essex are not claiming “vital” state benefits they are entitled to, according to a leading charity.

Russell Claydon

HALF of all pensioners in Suffolk and north Essex are not claiming “vital” state benefits they are entitled to, according to a leading charity.

Help the Aged is calling on all pensioners in the region to check if they are eligible for pension credit, as older people missing out continue to struggle with the spiralling cost of living.

Figures released by the charity show 18% of pensioners in Suffolk and north Essex are currently claiming the Government's pension credit, while Help the Aged estimates that 36% are eligible. Currently there are 61,300 pensioners claiming the benefit out of 349,800 in Suffolk and north Essex.

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Mervyn Kohler, special adviser for Help the Aged, said: “The cost of living is rising and the number of pensioners living in poverty is rising - so older people who are feeling the pinch should make sure they're doing all they can to get the benefits that are rightfully theirs.

“Older people in the East of England should find out today if they're entitled to benefits such as pension credit, council tax benefit, or housing benefit.

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“Even if people have made an unsuccessful claim in the past, changing circumstances and changing benefit levels may mean they are now eligible for money that can make a huge difference to their daily lives.”

He added pensioners who claim before the beginning of October could receive 12 months of payments backdated.

Cliff Horne, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said he was not surprised so few people were claiming the benefit.

“People do not like means testing,” he said. “It is a disincentive to save and people get penalised.

“The best system is a universal payment increase to the basic state pension. Then we can pay our way with dignity.”

The Government is also urging over-60s to get their applications in for the winter fuel payments after energy companies introduced record rises.

E.ON was the latest company to announce price hikes yesterday, increasing prices 16% for electricity and 26% for gas.

Angela Smith, MP for Basildon, who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Gordon Brown, said: “Although it is still August and winter seems a long way off, I want people to think of the colder months ahead.

“I don't want anyone to miss out on the help they are entitled to. If you haven't received a Winter Fuel Payment before, and are over 60 but not receiving the State Pension, you need to apply.”

She said for households including someone aged 60-79 there will be an extra £50 this year - bringing the total up to £250. And households with someone aged 80 or over will receive an extra £100 this year - £400 in total - to help older people cope with their higher energy costs.

The deadline to claim is September 19 to be certain to receive payment before Christmas. The Pension Service's helpline is 08459 151515.

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