An estimated 1.3 million households could be missing out on pension credits, figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DwP) show.
According to DwP, an estimated £2.2 billion of available Pension Credit went unclaimed in 2017/2018.
The figures showed that Pension Credit take-up was similar for those under 75 (62%) and those 75 and over (61%) but was lowest amongst pensioner couples, with just over half of those entitled received the benefit.
The means-tested, tax-free benefit is available to people over state pension age and gives eligible retirees around £58 extra income a week.
Often known as the ‘gateway’ pensioner benefit, it can also help people to get other benefits to help with the cost of living. Such as a free TV licence, council tax, free NHS dental treatment, cold weather payment and help with rent.
However, with two in five pensioners missing out on the benefit every year, Age UK is warning that the BBC’s plan to means-test TV licences for over-75s will only serve to exclude some of the very poorest and oldest pensioners from watching TV now and in the near future.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘It’s very clear from the figures that much more needs to be done to make sure the poorest pensioners get the financial help they’re entitled to.
‘You have to ask whether it is fair or appropriate to require older people on low incomes to jump through these hoops to get the money that is due to them, because clearly the current system isn’t getting the help to the most in need.
‘We know that older people don’t claim Pension Credit for a number of reasons, including lack of awareness of what’s available for them, difficulty making a claim, and a sense of discomfort about needing to ask for help.
‘What’s more, those who aren’t claiming Pension Credit or are living just above the Pension Credit means-tested level, are set to face horrible decisions over whether they can afford to continue to watch TV at all from June 1.
‘It’s completely wrong to put the oldest people in our society through this. We urge the Government to act now to broker a deal with the BBC to put millions of anxious older people’s minds at rest.’
The government has launched a 12-week campaign to raise awareness of pension credit among those over state pension age.
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