Over 200,000 older people struggling financially

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Over 200,000 over-65s in Scotland – that’s one in five – are struggling financially, according to new research for Age Scotland, despite an estimated £292 million in Pension Credit and Housing Benefit alone going unclaimed each year.

With the latest government figures showing that pensioner poverty is on the rise – with 158,000 pensioners now living below the poverty line – the Charity is urging older people to get in touch to find out if they’re entitled to some extra financial support.

The UK government’s latest figures show that one in 10 people aged 65+ would not be able to pay an unexpected expense of £200, to replace a broken washing machine for example. Yet hundreds of thousands of older people who are struggling to survive on a low income could be entitled to benefits such as Pension Credit, which has slightly increased this month and could provide a much-needed boost to their weekly income if claimed. In fact, if people who are eligible for Pension Credit make a claim, it could increase their income by an average of £42 a week – that’s £2,184 a year.

Age Scotland publishes a range of free guides to help people navigate the benefits system and has trained advisers on hand all year round to offer advice. The Charity has just updated its Benefits Maze guide to reflect benefit changes which came into effect earlier this month; the guide is specifically designed to help older people claim the benefits to which they are entitled, including Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, and help towards paying council tax. In addition many older people who are living with disabilities could receive extra support by claiming the non-means-tested Attendance Allowance. Age Scotland also publishes mini-guides including Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance Carers Allowance and the devolved benefits the Scottish Welfare Fund and Council Tax Reduction. – all available free of charge by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

As more welfare powers are being devolved, we would urge older people who are claiming winter fuel payments, or disability related or carers benefits, to become involved in the Scottish Government’s user experience panels to influence the future of Social Security in Scotland, you can call the Scottish Government on 0800 029 4974 to find out more.

Keith Robson, Chief Executive at Age Scotland, said: “Managing on a low, fixed income is really tough, and many people face a daily struggle just to afford the basics. That’s why is it so important that every older person who is entitled to claim benefits does so. Every day Age UK helps people to claim what they are entitled to, and every day we hear how much of a difference the money makes, how surprised people are by how straightforward the process is with the help of an adviser, and how much less they have to worry about everyday bills.

“It is shameful that despite millions of older people struggling financially, more than £290 million in cash benefits remains unclaimed every year when this extra income could make a huge difference to their lives. We would urge anyone who is worried about their finances, or an older family member or friend, to get in touch with us for free, impartial information and advice.

Age Scotland has funding from the Money Advice Service “What Works” funding to deliver roadshows to groups of older people on benefit entitlements, to Benefit entitlements, Care costs and funding, Power of Attorney, Wills and funeral costs and Planning for financial changes – call 0333 323 2400 or contact moneymatters@agescotland.org.uk to find out more.

To order a free copy of any of Age Scotland’s s guides, or for further information and advice on any issue, people should call Age Scotland’s helpline free of charge on 0800 12 44 222, visit www.agescotland.org.uk - where there is also an online calculator to help people find out exactly what they are owed, quickly and easily.