More than 3,300 pensioners in Portsmouth are not claiming up to £2,000 Pension Credit each year, reports Citizen Advice Portsmouth, and receipt of the Credit qualifies eligible pensioners for a free TV licence as well. This article is based on a press release from Citizens Advice Portsmouth, with additional reporting from Sarah Cheverton.
The Government recently reported that nearly 40% (up to 1.3 million pensioner households) of those entitled to receive Pension Credit did not claim the benefit. This means an estimated £2.5 billion of available Pension Credit went unclaimed nationally; amounting on average to around £2,000 per year for each household.
Citizens Advice Portsmouth estimates that this means that just over 3,300 pensioners in Portsmouth are not claiming up to £2,000 Pension Credit per year to which they may be entitled. Assuming that Portsmouth has the same rate of non-claimants as nationally, this amounts to an estimated £6.6 million of available Pension Credit unclaimed in the city. 8,265 pensioners in Portsmouth are eligible for Pension Credit, and 4,959 were in receipt of the benefit as of May 2019.
Sandy O’Neill, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Portsmouth, said ‘Pensioner poverty is on the increase. Improving take-up of Pension Credit can increase the income and help improve the lives of the poorest pensioners in the city.’
There are many reasons why pensioners do not claim Pension Credits and some people choose not to claim when eligible. However, Citizens Advice Portsmouth and the Pensions Association are calling on all agencies and groups working with older people in the city to encourage and where possible, to help pensioners who may be eligible to claim to do so.
Alan Burnett, President of the Portsmouth Pensioners Association, said, ‘We now have evidence showing that more than 3,000 pensioners are not claiming Pension Credit in Portsmouth. The Association calls on all those working with pensioners who might be eligible to assist and encourage them to claim what they are entitled to.’
What is Pension Credit?
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit composed of two elements, and nearly two thirds of recipients are women.
The government website explains there are two elements:
Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £167.25 (for single people) or £255.25 (for couples). You may still be eligible if you have savings, a pension or your own home.
Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement, for example a pension.
Take up of the Guarantee Credit is higher than take-up of Savings Credit only, and the Savings Credit element is being phased out.
Pension Credit and the end of the free TV licence
Following an announcement from the BBC in 2019, over 75 year olds will no longer automatically be in receipt of a free TV licence, from 1st June 2020.
According to BBC News Analysis:
Free licences were given to the over-75s as part of a Labour government programme to reduce pensioner poverty. Fifteen years later that government funding was cut by the Conservatives.
Ever since then, the BBC has been pondering if it can afford to take on the bill. It’s a cost that’s rising every year as the number of pensioners continues to grow. In 2020 it’s estimated there will be around 4.6 million households with at least one pensioner.
This then is a compromise; around a third of the cost will be borne by the BBC and two thirds passed on to ‘wealthier’ pensioners. The elderly are by far the biggest consumers of the BBC’s output, the average age of BBC TV’s audience is now over 62, the question is how far younger licence fee payers should subsidise these older viewers.
From 1st June, 3.7 million pensioners aged over 75 will have to start paying for their TV licence.
However, those in receipt of either element of Pension Credit will still be eligible for a free licence. Citizens Advice Portsmouth state that based on the current trends in take up of the benefit, just over 1,500 local pensioners could mistakenly pay for their TV licence as a result of not claiming the Pension Credit to which they are entitled.
How can you claim Pension Credit?
The quickest way to claim Pension Credit is to call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234, which is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. The service will even fill in the application form for an older person.
Pensioners can also submit a paper application which they can get, for example, from Citizens Advice or Age UK, or get a friend or family member to call the helpline to ask for a paper application.
To claim Pension Credit a person needs:
- their National Insurance number;
- their bank account details;
- and information about their income, savings and investments.
A person can check if they maybe eligible on the Citizens Advice website, here.
The Department for Work and Pensions has just updated their Pension Credit toolkit, here, which provides materials that local organisations can use to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit.