WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY – PENSIONS FOLLOW UP

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

The first question was about who received the “State Pension”.    Needless to say everybody answered that with a resounding “YES”.    You might assume from this that everybody gets about the same from the state to support themselves in retirement.    That would be a big misjudgment because the pension system is far more complex and doesn’t end up with an easy numerical answer for all.

So I asked a simple follow-up question to the group.    How much did they think they received in state pension each week?   Their answers are summed up in the graph below.

I said when I first published this survey that the State Pension, which everybody said they received, should be fairly straight forward to understand.    Firstly, there is an “old State Pension” which is currently £125.95 per week.    Secondly, there is a “new higher State Pension” which is £164.35 per week, but only applies to new pensioners.    In the survey group, nobody would be eligible for this new pension as they had all been pensioners for some while.    Therefore you would expect them to receive something around the old pension level of £126 per week.    So how do you explain the above graph?

  • Have they correctly remembered the amount they receive?
  • Is their State Pension topped up with Pension Credit?
  • Are they adding other occupational pensions into this figure?
  • Most importantly, do they know how their State Pension has been calculated?

Undoubtedly the variation in these figures is related to the level of National Insurance contributions they made during their working life.    But on top of that, you have to factor in other issues, like whether they paid a Married Woman’s Stamp, whether they contributed to the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme and whether they deferred taking their pension.

Basically, the Pensions Service says “trust me”.    But in a system as complicated as this that has changed frequently in the years gone by, how can you be sure that they get it right every time?   If you have a comprehensive grasp of this issue when you retire, you may be able to challenge the determination, but I wonder how many people do this.   I suspect that most people accept the figures they are given without question.

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Government’s figures but for many people setting aside money for a pension (alias National Insurance), this will be the biggest investment they will make in their life.    Therefore you would hope the system would be transparent and easy to understand.

The reality is the frequent changes that have been made to the State Pension system over the years, the constant renaming of benefits titles and the frequently hollow unfulfilled promises of politicians, do not inspire you with any great confidence.

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“All the pages are my days”

GrumbleSmiles was set up to provide innovative answers to tackling the problems of loneliness in later life.    Many older people are less able to get out and about, which can be the first steps towards a life of isolation.

So starting today I invite you to join me on a trip to unknown destinations around the world and an opportunity to talk to new and interesting people.    All at no cost and from the comfort of your own armchair.

We are going cloudsurfing.

 

 

My first trip is travelling with Mike Rodriquez in Aspen, Colorado, specifically to see the Maroon Bells mountains.  Although I’ve been to America many times, I’ve never been to Colorado.  So Mike’s blog and his wonderful photographs gave me a real insight into how wonderful the landscape is.

The photograph below is one of many views that Mike captured on his trip in October 2017.

2017 Favorites: Maroon Bells

If you click on the link below, it will take you to Mike’s blog site which is called “All the pages are my days”, where you can see much more.  I thank him for giving me permission to use this photograph and the link and I’m sure Mike would love to hear from you.

Mike’s Colorado Trip

In the weeks ahead, I will publish more blogs and photographs from my cloud surfing travels.

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – BENEFIT FREEBIES

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the fourth section which covers benefit freebies.

Free Travel Pass Graph – 96% Yes; 4% No; 0% Not Sure

You only get this when you’re eligible for State Pension and you have to apply for it.  Exactly where you can travel to depends on your Local Authority rules.  Some Local Authorities allow for free travel beyond their area (e.g. West Midlands).

 

 

 

Free Eye Tests Graph – 100% Yes

Perhaps not surprisingly, the take up for this is 100%.  Obviously because your optician tells you in anticipation that they are going to sell you an expensive pair of glasses.  I wonder how many people are sent away without needing glasses?

 

 

Free Prescriptions Graph – 100% Yes 

Again, everybody knows about this, presumably they are told at the doctor’s surgery.  You have to be 60 years old and look like it :-).

 

 

 

Hospital Travel Allowance Graph – 0% Yes; 80% No; 20% Not Sure 

This is means tested but if you qualify it should pay for your travel to and from the hospital as well as for car parking.  Some people had received reimbursement for car parking fees but otherwise you are generally expected to travel free on public transport.  This will not always be possible for people who either can’t get out of the house without assistance, or live in remote rural areas.  In those cases they should be reimbursed either for a car travel allowance or a taxi.  Hospitals seem to vary their approach on this and in some cases will also pay for carers.

Free TV Licence

This is available to people over the age of 75 and also to all pensioners if they live in sheltered housing.  You have to apply for it.  Responsibility for funding it has recently been transferred to the BBC which means the rules could change in future.

 

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.   

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – WEATHER PAYMENTS

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the third section which covers the weather payments.

Winter Fuel Allowance Graph – 92% Yes; 0% No; 8% Not Sure

This is paid for as part of the State Pension system and therefore everyone should receive it automatically.   Unless they have deferred receiving their pension, in which case they have to apply for it separately.  It is awarded per household, not per person.  There is a higher level for people over the age of 80.

 

 

Cold Weather Payments Graph – 20% Yes; 60% No; 20% Not Sure

This is not as simple as the last benefit, but it is paid automatically as an addition to the State Pension.  You do not have to apply for it.  You only receive it if there are 7 consequtive days where the temperature falls below zero during the winter period in the location that you live.

 

 

Fuel Discount?

You should be able to get a £140 reduction in your fuel bills from your fuel supplier.  This isn’t part of the benefits system, but it is a reduction negotiated between the Government and the fuel suppliers (gas and electric).  It is means tested and you have to take the initiative to speak to your supplier to get it.

I’m not sure how many people are aware of this or how many actually receive it?

 

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.   

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Rainy Day Benefits

All my recent posts about welfare benefits have dragged my down, not helped by the everyday rain.     It seems like I have chosen the driest subject to talk about in the wettest spring I can remember.    It all makes for gloomy reading.

Only a few primroses brave the cold and damp, stepping out into the wet washes of endless drizzle.    Greatful thanks to them for briefly raising my spirits.     The rain clouds don’t lift for long determined to make this “ a long cold lonely winter”.

I need a Spring break.    So do my daffodils.   For weeks now they have kept their heads down, sheltering from the rain.

Now the daffodils are fed up waiting and have decided to start the Spring song “Here comes the sun”😀

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – DISABILITY BENEFITS

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the second section which covers the disability benefits.

Attendance Allowance Graph – 8% Yes; 76% No; 16% Not Sure

This benefit is paid to people who have a degree of disability.  It is means tested and there is a daytime and higher night-time allowance.  Only a few people in the group get this allowance.  Quite possibly people who do receive it may not be able to get out and about easily and therefore don’t attend the group.  This is a valuable allowance, but you may need expert help to claim it!

 

 

Carer’s Allowance Graph – 4% Yes; 80% No; 16% Not Sure

This benefit is also means tested but it is perhaps surprising that a few more people don’t receive it.

I’m not sure if you can get both Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance.  The majority of carers, particularly relatives, provide assistance for free.

I think Carer’s Allowance is very under-claimed?

 

Disability Living Allowance Graph – 8% Yes; 76% No; 16% Not Sure 

This is only awarded to people who are disabled before they reach pensionable age.  It can’t be claimed by people who are pensioners.

It has now been superseded by Personal Independence Payments for new applicants.

 

 

Personal Independence Payments Graphs – 0% Yes; 80% No; 20% Not Sure

These are means tested benefits, which are adminstered by DHSS.

 

PIP was introduced in 2013 to replace DLA.  It actually only applies to people between the ages of 16 and 64.  Therefore it is not applicable to pensioners. It’s introduction has been controversial and confusing, 60% of the reviews that cut this benefit have been overturned on appeal.

 

 

 

 

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.   

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – MAIN BENEFITS

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the first section which covers the main benefits.

State Pension Graph – 100% Yes

Clearly everyone who completed the survey was of pensionable age and 100% received the State Pension.  The big question is, did they all receive the same amount?

It depends on how many years you contributed into National Insurance.

And whether you were contracted out.

Or if you deferred receiving your state pension for a while.

AND whether you receive Pension Credit Guarantee.

And don’t forget about SERPS.

EASY TO WORK OUT THEN, WOULDN’T YOU THINK  !

It would be interesting to know if and how people’s’ state pension differ?

What if you have never contributed? 

And what is a Married Woman’s contribution?

 

Pension Credit Graph – 20% Yes; 60% No; 20% Not Sure

Only 20% of the group are sure they get Pension Credit (the national take up level is 69%).  A further 20% are not sure.  The 60% who said no, either means that they have other income, or that their State Pension is not topped up with the Pension Credit Guarantee.  Everybody should get at least £155 per week, either from the State or other income.

 

 

Council Tax Reduction Graph – 21% Yes; 68% No; 11% Not Sure

All households with only one occupant qualify for a 25% reduction.  Additional reduction is available, but is means tested.  If you receive Pension Credit, this should automatically be given, but you may have to apply for it.

 

 

 

Housing Benefit – 1% Yes; 88%No; 11% Not Sure

This is only available to people who rent in public or private housing.  It is means tested.  So you only receive it in full if you have an income of less than £16,000 per year.  If you have savings, some income from that will be assumed in the calculation of your entitlement to Housing Benefit.

 

 

Universal Credit – 0% Yes; 78% No; 22% Not Sure 

This is a newly introduced system for Welfare Benefits which may not have yet been started in Coventry which would explain the “0% yes” answer.    It doesn’t give you more financial benefit, it just consolidates them into a single payment.

 

 

 

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.   

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