Pensions - Articles - Pensioner homeowners fail to claim full benefits entitlement

Just Group calls for benefits information to be at heart of retirement guidance. Cash-strapped pensioners are missing out on thousands of pounds of income by failing to claim their full entitlement to State Benefits.

 Just Group’s ninth annual State Benefits Survey found that of pensioner homeowners entitled to receive benefits, half (49%) are failing to claim anything, missing out on an average of £1,139 a year. A further two in 10 (20%) are claiming but receiving too little, missing out on an average £855 a year.
 “Once again we have found that too many people are missing out on claiming their full benefits with the average annual loss of £1,058 a year, the highest for five years,” said Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group. “These are meaningful sums of money that would make a real difference to people’s lives, especially for those struggling to pay everyday living costs.”
 The research from Just Group, based on in-depth fact-finding interviews with clients seeking advice on equity release, shows:
 “The first priority of the professional adviser when meeting clients is to check their entitlement to State benefits,” said Stephen Lowe. “Of those eligible for State support, we found around seven in 10 households were missing out, made up of 49% failing to claim anything and 20% claiming only their partial entitlement.
 “The highest amount unclaimed was £5,702 a year by a couple in Cheshire aged 57 and 58 who were claiming part of their benefit entitlement but under claiming an additional £110 a week. Among those completely missing out on benefits, a household in Norfolk, aged 83 and 57, were eligible to claim £5,506 a year. A 93year-old from Hertfordshire who was not claiming, was entitled to receive £5,434 a year.

 "Overall, nearly one-third of those missing out were eligible to receive benefits worth £1,000 a year or more. Of course we don't know how long people have been missing out on benefits so in some cases the overall loss is likely to be in the tens of thousands of pounds." 

 Of the three key benefits tracked in the research, it is Guarantee Pension Credit which displays the biggest unclaimed average amount at £1,889 a year, and in one case the loss identified was £4,173 a year. Savings Pension Credit is the least likely benefit to be claimed with take-up rate of less than one in three of those eligible and an average loss of £434 a year.
 Nearly one-third (32%) of cases were eligible to receive Council Tax Reduction but fewer than four in 10 of those were claiming, with an average annual loss of £745.
 Overall, half of those eligible to claim were missing out on at least one benefit, 12% were missing two benefits and 4% were missing out on three.

 * Universal Credit, D isability L iving A llowance , A ttendance A llowance , Jobseekers Allowance, P ersonal Independence P ayment , industrial injury benefit, etc
 “Our research with advised clients is backed up by official government figures which show vast amounts of State benefits go unclaimed,” said Stephen Lowe. “For the two elements of Pension Credit, it is estimated about 1.3 million families are failing to claim up to £3.5 billion a year.”
 He added that the take-up rates in the Just Group research amongst advised clients are below official government estimates for the whole population, suggesting that homeowners are more likely to be missing out than tenants or non-homeowners.
 “It raises questions about whether homeowners are less likely to think they are eligible and therefore less likely to claim, or whether the guidance and information is not making the right impact to help people claim,” he said. “The benefits system is not easy to navigate, perhaps highlighted by the fact that even significant numbers who are claiming are not getting their full entitlement.
 “It certainly reinforces the argument that State Benefits information should be included as part of the government backed free, independent and impartial financial guidance now being offered by Pension Wise to those aged 50+ who are considering accessing pension money.”

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