It's incredible how many older adults don't claim all the benefits they're entitled to. Rob Mair identifies what assistance is out there and what can you may be entitled to claim.

In this article:

  1. State Pension
  2. Pension credit
  3. Attendance Allowance
  4. Disability Living Allowance
  5. Council Tax Benefit
  6. Housing Benefit
  7. Independent Living Fund
  8. Social Fund
  9. Charitable grants
  10. Carer’s Allowance

State Pension

The State Pension is paid to people depending on their National Insurance (NI) contributions. In 2012-13, a single person can get up to £107.45 per week basic state pension. You can claim a State Pension if:

  • You are of pensionable age, currently 65 years old for men and between 60 and 65 for women, depending on when they were born. It is set to increase to 66 by October 2020.
  • Either you or your partner has paid national insurance.
  • The State Pension is dependent upon the amount of years that you have worked for, but can be bolstered by several benefits that are included with the State Pension:
  • Additional State Pension. Traditionally, the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) was tied to pay and contributions made to NI, but in 2002 it was extended to include some carers and people with long-term illness or disability
  • Long-term Incapacity Benefit Age Addition to State Pension. If you received long-term incapacity benefit within 8 weeks of reaching pensionable age, your State Pension will automatically be increased.
  • Age Addition. Everyone over the age of 80 receives an extra 25p per week.

For more information on the State Pension, visit the Pension Service website or call 0845 60 60 265.

Pension credit

Pension credit guarantees everyone over the age of 60 with an income of at least £137.35 a week for single people and £209.70 for couples.

In addition, the savings credit rewards those aged 65 and over who have modest savings and investment income, by providing:

  • Up to £18.54 per week for single people with an income of up to £189 a week from pensions, savings and investments.
  • Up to £23.73 per week for couples with a joint income of up to £277 a week from pensions, savings and investments.

These amounts could be higher if you are disabled, a carer or have certain housing costs, such as mortgage interest payments.

Attendance allowance

Attendance allowance is a tax-free benefit paid by the Department of Work and Pensions. It is not means-tested and can be claimed regardless of whether you have paid NI contributions or not.

You can claim attendance allowance:

  • If you are over 65 years old
  • If you are ill or disabled
  • Regardless of whether you are currently working or not
  • Regardless of whether you have a carer (paid or unpaid)
  • If someone has been caring for you for a minimum of 6 months
  • You have lived in the UK for 6 of the previous 12 months.

You are eligible to claim attendance allowance if you are unable to carry out some of the following tasks:

  • Dressing or undressing
  • Bathing
  • Using the toilet
  • Walking or going upstairs
  • Getting into or out of a chair
  • Turning over or settling in bed
  • Cooking

Poor eyesight, forgetfulness or illness may also make you eligible for attendance allowance.

Attendance Allowance is paid at 2 rates; £51.85 a week if you need care or supervision during either the day or night and £77.45 if you require supervision during the day and night. The money does not have to be spent on care.

For more information on attendance allowance visit the website.

Disability living allowance

Disability living allowance (DLA) is similar to attendance allowance but can only be claimed by people under the age of 65, although if an existing claimant passes 65, it will continue to be paid. However, over 65s that claim DLA cannot also claim attendance allowance.

DLA is split into 2 components – care and mobility.

The care component is awarded if you need help carrying out some of the following:

  • Dressing or undressing
  • Bathing
  • Using the toilet
  • Taking medicine
  • Walking or going upstairs
  • Getting into or out of a chair
  • Turning over or settling in bed
  • Cooking

There are 3 different levels of weekly payment:

  • Lower. Worth £20.55, it is awarded if you cannot cook a hot meal and need help for about 1 hour per day
  • Middle. Worth £51.85, it is awarded if you need help throughout the day or night
  • Higher. Worth £77.45, it is awarded if you need help during the day and night

The mobility component of DLA is split into 2 sections:

  • Lower. Worth £20.55 per week, it is awarded if you can walk inside but require help outside
  • Higher. Worth £54.05 per week, it is awarded if you have difficulty walking and are deaf and blind

DLA will be replaced in 2013 by the personal independence payment. The eligbility criteria and level of awards have yet to be decided.

Council Tax Benefit

Council Tax Benefit helps towards the payment of Council Tax and can be applied for regardless of whether you own your home or rent. It also applies if you receive a council tax discount for living on your own.

You can claim Council Tax Benefit if you are:

  • On a low income and pay council tax
  • Over 60 and have savings of less than £16,000

Individual factors will be taken into account to determine the percentage of the bill you will be exempt from paying, which could be up to 100%, if you are entitled to the 'guarantee credit' of pension credit. In other circumstances, it could be up to 25% Factors that will be looked at include:

  • Income, including earnings, benefits, tax credits and occupational pensions
  • Circumstances – such as age, size of family, if any of your dependents are disabled and whether anyone you live with can assist with payment

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit - also called rent rebate or rent allowance - is paid by local authorities to people on a low income who live in rented accommodation.

People over 60 years old, receive Pension Credit and have more than £16,000 in savings are unable to claim Housing Benefit.

Claims are dependent upon:

  • Your income – including earnings, benefits and pensions
  • Your savings
  • Your circumstances – including your age, size of your family, if any dependents are disabled and whether anyone you live with can assist with paying
  • The amount of rent you pay and whether this is reasonable for the size of your home
  • Whether the home is a reasonable size for you and your family
  • The rent you pay is reasonable for the area

Independent Living Fund

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is a government-backed scheme that helps severely disabled people to live independently rather than in a residential care home. However, this scheme has been closed to new applicants.

Social Fund

The Social Fund provides several benefits and grants for the elderly. It is split into 2 parts – the Regulated Social Fund and the Discretionary Social Fund.

The Regulated Social Fund includes:

  • Winter Fuel Payments. These are tax free payments to the over 60s to help pay for heating and lighting during the winter months. To claim you should be 60 by the third Monday of September, although it will be paid automatically if you have claimed previously or claim other state benefits. For more information call the Winter Fuel Payments helpline on 08459 151 515
  • Cold Weather Payments. This benefit is designed to help pay for heating costs during a period of extremely cold weather, where the average temperature is below zero degrees for 7 consecutive days
  • Funeral Payments. This is a grant that can help to pay for the funeral of a partner or close family friend. It takes into account the deceased’s estate, but not your own savings

Unlike the Regulated Social Fund, the Discretionary Social Fund has restrictions on the amount of money available each year and each award must follow a strict set of guidelines. It includes:

  • Community Care Grant. Available to anyone receiving Pension Credit and if awarded does not have to be paid back. It is designed to keep you in your own home instead of moving into a care home and can be spent on large items that would improve your quality of life should you stay at home
  • Crisis Loan. This can help you should you have an emergency need or experience a disaster, such as flooding. It is designed to stop you from experiencing any ill-effects from your property, but must be paid back on a weekly basis. It can be claimed by anyone
  • Budgeting Loans. This is similar to the Community Care Grant, but must be paid back

Charitable Grants

Some charities also offer grants, which can be useful if you don’t meet the criteria for government support. However, most charities expect you to be receiving all of the benefits that you are entitled to have and applied to the Social Fund first before they offer assistance.

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is paid to people age 16 and above who spend at least 35 hours caring for a person claiming Attendance Allowance or DLA.

Carer’s Allowance is worth £58.45 a week, but this is reduced depending on other payments you receive. You cannot claim Carer’s Allowance if you have a weekly income of more than £100 after certain deductions, such as income tax, have been made. Also, if you receive certain other benefits at £58.45 or more a week, you won't get carer's allowance as well.

For more information on Carer’s Allowance visit the website.