Older people living on their own could be due £3,900 income boost before end of next month

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently confirmed that nearly 78 per cent of all new claims for Pension Credit are processed - from initial application to award decision letter - within the target timeframe of 50 working days. This means older people on a low income making a new claim this month, especially those living on their own, could receive their first payment and any arrears before the end of July.

Despite the annual uprating in April, which saw the full New State Pension rise to £221.20 per week and the full Basic State Pension rise to £169.50, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in 2021, some 3.3 million people aged 65 years and over were living alone in England and Wales, with around 337,000 single pensioner households recorded in Scotland.

It’s crucial for older people - single, married or cohabiting - to make sure they are claiming all the additional financial support they are entitled to.

The most under-claimed benefit, specifically aimed at providing additional financial support for older people on a low income - singles and couples, is Pension Credit. Nearly 1.4 million older people across Great Britain, including more than 126,800 living in Scotland, are currently receiving the means-tested benefit that could provide nearly £4,000 in extra support during the year ahead.

However, the latest figures from the DWP suggest there are still 880,000 eligible pensioners not claiming the benefit they are entitled to.

Below is an overview of the benefit including who should check eligibility, how to go about it, how much you could get, and where to get help filling in the form.

Who can claim Pension Credit?

There are two types of Pension Credit - Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.

To qualify for Guarantee Pension Credit , you must be State Pension age (66). Your weekly income will need to be less than the minimum amount the UK Government says you need to live on.

This is £218.15 for a single person and £332.95 for a couple - this amount could be higher if you're disabled, a carer or have certain housing costs.

You can only get Savings Credit if:

  • you reached State Pension age before April 6, 2016, or you have a partner who reached State Pension age before this date and was already receiving it

  • you have qualifying income of at least £189.80 a week for a single person and £301.22 a week for a couple

How much could you get?

Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income to:

  • £218.15 for a single person

  • £332.95 for a couple (married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting)

You might be able to get more than this if you're disabled or a carer, or you have certain housing costs.

Savings Credit can give you up to:

  • £17.01 a week for a single person

  • £19.04 a week for a couple (married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting).

The exact amount you’ll get depends on your income and savings. Your income includes assumed income from savings and capital over £10,000.

Quickest way to check eligibility for Pension Credit

Older people, or friends and family, can quickly check their eligibility and get an estimate of what they may receive by using the online Pension Credit calculator on GOV.UK here.

Alternatively, pensioners can contact the Pension Credit helpline directly to make a claim on 0800 99 1234 - lines are open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Independent Age offers free and confidential advice, their helpline number is 0800 319 6789, you can also email them at helpline@independentage.org. Full contact details can be found on their website here.

An elderly woman is looking at paperwork with a worried expression on her face
Pension Credit claims can be backdated by up to three months and unlock other financial support. -Credit:Getty Images

Other help if you get Pension Credit

If you qualify for Pension Credit you can also get other help, such as:

  • Housing Benefit if you rent the property you live in

  • Support for Mortgage Interest if you own the property you live in

  • Council Tax discount

  • Free TV licence if you are aged 75 or over

  • Help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments

  • Help with your heating costs through the Warm Home Discount Scheme

  • A discount on the Royal Mail redirection service if you are moving house

Mixed aged older couples and Pension Credit

In May 2019, the law changed so a ‘mixed age couple’ - a couple where one partner is of State Pension age and the other is under it - are considered to be a ‘working age’ couple when checking entitlement to means-tested benefits.

This means they cannot claim Pension Credit or pension age Housing Benefit until they are both State Pension age. Before this DWP change, a mixed age couple could be eligible to claim the more generous State Pension age benefits when just one of them reached State Pension age.

How to use the Pension Credit calculator

To use the calculator on GOV.UK, you will need details of:

  • earnings, benefits and pensions

  • savings and investments

You’ll need the same details for your partner if you have one.

You will be presented by a series of questions with multiple choice answer options.

This includes:

  • Your date of birth

  • Your residential status

  • Where in the UK you live

  • Whether you are registered blind

  • Which benefits you currently receive

  • How much you receive each week for any benefits you get

  • Whether someone is paid Carer’s Allowance to look after you

  • How much you get each week from pensions - State Pension, private and work pensions

  • Any employment earnings

  • Any savings, investments or bonds you have

Once you have answered these questions, a summary screen shows your responses, allowing you to go back and change any answers before submitting. The Pension Credit calculator then displays how much benefit you could receive each week.

All you have to do then is follow the link to the application page to find out exactly what you will get from the DWP, including access to other financial support.

There’s also an option to print off the answers you give using the calculator tool to help you complete the application form quicker without having to look out the same details again. Try the Pension Credit Calculator for yourself or your family member to make sure you’re receiving all the financial support you are entitled to claim.

Who cannot use the Pension Credit calculator?

You cannot use the calculator if you or your partner:

  • are deferring your State Pension

  • own more than one property

  • are self employed

  • have housing costs (such as service charges or Crown Tenant rent) which are neither mortgage repayments nor rent covered by Housing Benefit

How to make a claim

You can start your application up to four months before you reach State Pension age. You can claim any time after you reach State Pension age but your claim can only be backdated for three months.

This means you can get up to three months of Pension Credit in your first payment if you were eligible during that time.

You will need:

  • your National Insurance number

  • information about your income, savings and investments

  • your bank account details, if you’re applying by phone or by post

If you’re backdating your claim, you’ll need details of your income, savings and investments on the date you want your claim to start.

Apply online

You can use the online service if:

  • you have already claimed your State Pension

  • there are no children or young people included in your claim

To check your entitlement, phone the Pension Credit helpline on 0800 99 1234 or use the GOV.UK Pension Credit calculator here to find out how much you could get.

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