Thousands of households lose Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support after being excluded

A stressed older couple looking at paperwork and worrying about their finances
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A host of older UK households are missing out on critical financial benefits due to being "digitally excluded", a report has warned. The lack of internet access appears to be preventing these individuals from accessing much-needed Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

According to a report by Age UK, a sizable number of elderly Brits on low incomes are not claiming these benefits since they don't have an online presence. Government data indicates that about 310,000 pensioner households are failing to acquire crucial Housing Benefit for which they qualify.

The charity believes this issue could predominantly stem from the inability of numerous seniors to apply for additional support over the internet. Council Tax Support, also identified as Council Tax Benefit or Council Tax Reduction, is an initiative meant to alleviate some or all of your council tax bill burden.

However, it is estimated that around 2.7 million people are missing out on £2.8 billion worth of this assistance across the nation.

Age UK carried out a study where they made 220 phone calls to 110 councils throughout England and Wales to explore alternate avenues available to those wanting to apply for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction without using online methods, reports Birmingham Live.. They discovered that callers were often instructed to seek assistance at council offices or libraries, but this was usually after being repeatedly questioned.

In some instances, four callers couldn't gain access to a staff member for face-to-face conversation, while 16 weren't provided with an alternative application method or any kind of help from the council. There were also situations where varying council staff handed out inconsistent information regarding offline options when multiple calls were made, creating what has been described as a "massive postcode lottery", according to the Mirror.

Age UK is highlighting the challenges faced by older individuals who struggle with digital platforms, which hinders their ability to access essential financial support. The charity's research indicates that around 2.3 million people over 65 do not use the internet, and nearly half of these individuals are aged 75 or older.

The organisation is urging local authorities to ensure there is at least one suitable offline alternative for those who cannot use online services, and to make their offline contact details more readily available. Age UK stresses the importance of government intervention to guarantee these options are accessible nationwide.

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK, commented: "It's quite wrong that if you are an older person who is offline, your ability to apply for financial support you badly need depends so much on where you happen to live it is clearly much easier to do in some places, compared to others."

"Some councils are doing a good job in supporting older people who can't use online systems to apply for help in other ways... however in a minority of cases, no offline option was on offer at all. What would have happened to a 'real' older person who had rung up and asked to apply for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction in another way in one of these localities? It seems to us that they would have been unable to do so, unless they had the support of a family member or friend who was au fait with computers, to help them get through the process online."