This is a continuation of my last week’s blog on welfare benefits. ( You can see all the posts on this subject by clicking on “Welfare Benefits “ in the Tag Cloud )
Perhaps I should start with what I know already. There are far more reliable websites out there, if you can find them. One of my first problems was that the websites have different dates and consequently different databases. Because of that you can frequently find several figures for the same issue. Needless to say this is hopelessly confusing. Also, several benefits have changed their name over the years and it is easy to mistakenly think that they are separate benefits when they may not be. There are some trustworthy advice agencies that can guide you on this but you have to find who you can trust first. Because sadly I have found several companies that embed their advertising amongst charitable organisations. But in fact many of them are high interest loan sharks, so you have to be very careful. Additionally, there is a vast amount of Government information, but once again you have to find the particular data that is current and relevant to you and that is not always easy. That’s what this blog thread will be all about.
I have worked with charitable organisations for 30 years providing housing and support for older people. During that time I have employed some very committed and successful benefits teams. What little I now know I have learned from them. They have helped a great many older people to secure substantial unclaimed benefits, which in total amounts to many millions of pounds.
So here is a jumble of benefits information in my head. Let’s start with what benefits I have heard of :-
- State Pension – not really a benefit – it is an entitlement that you must have paid into for years. The rules on it have changed over the years and are still changing today, therefore few people are sure what they are entitled to. The current Government is equalising men and women retirement age, while at the same time progressively extending the state retirement age for everyone. Some years ago, the annual index linking of pensions was changed from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index which has had the effect of depressing pension increases since they were introduced. On the positive side, the current Government has introduced a new higher state pension but only for new pensioners which introduces a level of unfairness and confusion into the system.
- Pension Credit – even more difficult to understand which partly explains why it is so under-claimed. It is a very important benefit nonetheless and acts as a “passport” to several other benefits. Hence it is very important to claim this benefit if you are entitled to it. I will say more about it when I’ve looked into it further.
- Housing Benefit – This is a key means-tested benefit for renters in the public and private sector. It too is a “passport” benefit to other benefits. Over quite a few years, housing benefit increases have been limited and in some situations “capped”. It remains a very important benefit for many elderly people in retirement housing, because it includes an element of payment for service charges.
I could go on to mention Council Tax Benefit …….. and then discuss …….. cold weather …….. and fuel …….. and care …….. and health …….. and ……. and ……. But with each step my knowledge would get less and less and more befuddled. Also I would probably need 5772 pages.
So I will look them up first before I comment on them individually. So far I have spent quite a few days surfing in the benefits sea. I have yet to find a compass or a life raft.
Is it any wonder that so many older people fail to receive their full entitlement to welfare benefits ?
FOOTNOTE – Please note, I hasten to add that I am no expert and anyone reading this should not take my observations or figures as fact. Hopefully before I finish this series of blogs, I will have raised awareness of some of the issues in the welfare benefits system. If you’re intending to make a claim, you should go to one of the trusted agencies like Age UK or Citizens Advice Bureau.