Every year in the UK, a staggering £3.7bn worth of benefits fail to be claimed by the older generation. Whilst some people might not need grants or financial support, these opportunities are a lifeline to others.
Most of the benefits look at someone’s age as a qualifier and are classed as age-related benefits. This means that even if you’re fit, healthy and have a good income, you could still receive some money or alternative financial help, such as free goods and services.
Others are available as means-tested benefits, which assess whether or not an individual’s income is below certain criteria which then make them eligible for benefits.
This article will explain how to know which benefits you’re entitled to, including:
- Income Benefits
- NHS Benefits
- Carer Benefits
- Energy Benefits
- Transport Benefits
- Bereavement Benefits
- Other Benefits
To find out what you might be missing out on, keep reading to see what you need to do to claim the benefits you’re eligible for.
How Do I Know Which Benefits I’m Entitled To?
Online benefits calculators, such as this one from AgeUK, can help to establish whether there are funds you can take advantage of.
Your state pension isn’t paid automatically – you must apply!
There are two state pension systems in effect:
The “old” system: if you reached the state pension age before 6 April 2016 then the “old” system applies to you.
Under the “old” system, you could receive up to £137.60 per week. This amount increases every year.
To receive the full amount, you must have 30 years of National Insurance contributions or National Insurance Credits.
If you don’t qualify for the full amount, you might be able to increase your pension by paying voluntary National Insurance Contributions, or by claiming a top-up through your spouse or partner.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/state-pension
The “new” system: if you’re a man born on (or after) 6 April 1951 or a woman born on (or after) 6 April 1953 then the “new” system applies to you.
Under the “new” system, you could receive up to £179.60 per week. This amount increases every year.
However, to qualify for the new state pension, you must have at least 10 years of National Insurance contributions. This is different from the old system.
To receive the full amount, you must have paid into National Insurance for 35 years. This is also different from the old system.
The amount of state pension you receive may be affected by whether you were “contracted out” because you paid into a workplace or personal pension.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/new-state-pension
If you’re on a low income and having trouble paying your bills, you may want to look into Pension Credit. This comes in two forms; Savings Credit and Guarantee Credit.
The former offers extra cash if your income is above the basic state pension and/or savings threshold, the latter tops up weekly income to a minimum amount. Despite around four million people being entitled to Pension Credit, a third of pensioners still don’t claim it.
Pension Credit can top-up your income to £177.10 for single people or up to £270.30 if you have a spouse or civil partner.
In addition to these top-ups, you may be eligible for extra payments in some circumstances, such as:
- You’re severely disabled
- You’re a carer
- You’re responsible for children or young people (including disabled children or young people)
- You’ve got housing costs
- You’ve got savings or another pension (besides state pension)
These top-ups and extra payments are called Guarantee Credit.
Pension Credit entitles anyone over the age of 60 to free NHS prescriptions and eye tests. This includes your spouse or partner even if they’re younger than 60.
How to claim:
- In England, Wales, and Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit
- In Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/understanding-pension-credit
Council Tax Reduction
Most families in Britain have to pay council tax on their homes. The rate depends on where you live and the type of property you live in.
Bills can still be quite expensive—even for the smallest of homes. So, it’s worth asking your local council if you’re eligible for a discount.
Each council has their own council tax reduction or support scheme, and the amount of money you could receive depends on where you live, your income and savings (including pension), whether you have any children, and whether you receive other benefits.
How to claim:
- In England, Wales, and Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction
- In Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/guide-rates/help-paying-your-rates
Housing Benefit is currently being replaced by Universal Credit. However, you can still make a claim if you’re eligible for State Pension and don’t already receive Universal Credit.
There’s no set amount for Housing Benefit. The amount you receive depends on your personal circumstances, including your age, how much you pay in rent, and your household income (including pension and benefits).
There are multiple other restrictions on who can receive Housing Benefit. The full eligibility criteria are available here.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/housing-benefit
Support for Mortgage Interest
If you own your own home but are having trouble paying your mortgage, the government could help you pay the interest.
You could get help paying the interest on up to £200,000 of the amount you owe your lender, or up to £100,000 if you claim Pension Credit.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest
If you receive a state pension, Pension Credit, or other benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Carer’s Allowance, you could receive a £10 Christmas bonus.
How to claim: the Christmas bonus is paid automatically. If you haven’t received the bonus but think you should, you can contact the Pension Service.
When you turn 60, you’ll be entitled to free eye tests and prescriptions. However, depending on your circumstances, you might also qualify for other discounts.
If you’re 60 or older, you’re entitled to free prescriptions on the NHS.
If you receive Pension Credit and your spouse or partner is younger than 60, they’re also entitled to free prescriptions.
How to claim: ask your pharmacist when you drop off a prescription. You’ll need to fill in a declaration at the back of the prescription form.
You may be asked for proof of your age.
Free Eye Tests and Optical Vouchers
Anyone 60 or older is entitled to free eye tests on the NHS.
If you receive Pension Credit and your spouse or partner is younger than 60, they’re also entitled to free eye tests.
Pension Credit also entitles you to claim a voucher towards the cost of new glasses or contact lenses.
How to claim: ask your optician when you make an appointment. You may need to complete a General Ophthalmic Services form (GOS1).
You might also be asked to prove your age. If you’re claiming an optical voucher, you may be asked for your award notice from the Pension Centre.
Free Dental Treatment
If you receive Pension Credit, you may be entitled to free dental treatment.
How to claim: ask your dental surgery when you make an appointment. You may need to complete a declaration form and show your award notice from the Pension Centre.
If you receive State Pension and you’re physically or mentally disabled, you may be entitled to Attendance Allowance.
The Attendance Allowance pays £60 per week if you need help during either the day or night or £89.60 if you need help day and night or you’re terminally ill.
It’s important to note that you don’t actually need to have someone caring for you to claim this benefit.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/attendance-allowance
Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit
If you spend at least 35 hours per week caring for someone who receives Attendance Allowance, you could be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
The Carer’s Allowance is £67.60 per week.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance
If you care for someone for at least 20 hours per week, you should also consider claiming Carer’s Credit.
Carer’s Credit gives you National Insurance credits. These credits can help fill gaps in your National Insurance record (for example, because you’re caring for someone full-time and can’t work).
Filling these gaps is important for when you claim your State Pension later in life.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/carers-credit
Warm Home Discount Scheme
If you receive the Guarantee Credit top-up for Pension Credit, you could be eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
This scheme gives you a one-time discount of up to £140 on your electricity bill between October and March.
The money is taken directly off your electricity bill.
Applications for the current scheme opened on 18 October 2021.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Winter Fuel Payment
If you’re born on or before 5 October 1954 and you meet the residency requirements, you may be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment.
Payments are issued in November and December each year. The amount varies between £100 and £300. The amount you receive depends on:
- Your age
- The age of other people you live with
- Whether you live in a house/flat or a care home
- Whether you or your partner receive Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Employment and Support Allowance
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment
Cold Weather Payment
If you receive Pension Credit or Support for Mortgage Interest, you should also receive from the Cold Weather Payment to help keep your home warm.
The Cold Weather Payment is £25 for every 7 days that are deemed “very cold weather” between 1 November and 31 March each year.
You don’t need to apply for the Cold Weather Payment. It’s paid automatically to people on Pension Credit and other benefits.
If you think you’re entitled to the Cold Weather Payment but you haven’t received it, contact your Pension Centre between November and March.
There are various forms of benefits available, allowing for free or discounted travel on a range of public transport.
Free Bus Passes
If you live in England, you’re eligible for a free bus pass once you reach 65. In Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, anyone over the age of 60 is eligible.
How to claim:
- England and Wales: https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-elderly-person-bus-pass
- Scotland: https://www.transport.gov.scot/concessionary-travel/60plus-or-disabled
- Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/bus-and-coach-travel/free-bus-travel-and-concessions
Free Transport in London
60+ Oyster card
If you’re over 60 and live in London, you’re eligible for a 60+ Oyster card which entitles you to free transport throughout the city.
How to claim: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/60-plus-oyster-photocard
Once you’re over 65, you can apply for a Freedom Pass, which entitles London residents to free transport. However, there are certain restrictions on where and when you can use your Freedom Pass. You can learn more about the restrictions here.
How to claim: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/services/freedom-pass/older-persons-freedom-pass
Senior Rail Card
National Rail offers a Senior Rail Card which entitles anyone over the age of 60 to 1/3 off anytime, off-peak, and advance tickets. The card costs £30 for 1 year or £70 for 3 years.
How to apply: https://www.senior-railcard.co.uk/
National Express Senior Coachcard
If you’re over 60 you can purchase a Senior Coachcard which gives you 1/3 off standard and flexible fares on National Express. The card costs £12.50 plus postage.
How to apply: https://www.nationalexpress.com/en/offers/coachcards/senior
Bereavement and Funeral Benefits
There are two forms of benefit available if a loved one dies; Bereavement Payment and Bereavement Allowance.
Funeral Expenses Payment
If you receive Pension Credit and your spouse or partner has died, you could get help paying for the cost of their funeral. This includes the cost of a death certificate as well as burial or cremation fees.
If your spouse or partner died before 8 April 2020 you could receive up to £700.
If they passed after 8 April 2020 you could receive up to £1,000.
The amount you could receive depends on your circumstances—including whether your spouse or partner had insurance or left an estate.
How to claim: https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments
Bereavement Support Payment
If your spouse or partner has died and was younger than the State Pension age at the time of their death, you might be eligible to claim Bereavement Support Payment.
To claim this benefit, your spouse or partner must have either:
- Paid into National Insurance for at least 25 weeks in any 1 year since 1975; or,
- Died due to a workplace accident or work-related disease.
There are two different rates of Bereavement Support Payment, depending on whether or not you have children:
- If you have children, you could receive a one-time payment of up to £3,500 followed by monthly payments of £350 for 18 months.
- If you don’t have children, you could receive a one-time payment of up to £2,500 followed by monthly payments of £100 for 18 months.
- To receive the full amount (whether you have children or not), you must claim this benefit within 3 months after your spouse or partner died (12 months in Northern Ireland).
- If you don’t claim within 3 (or 12) months, you can still apply within 21 months after their death, but your payments will be lower.
How to claim:
- In England, Wales, and Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/bereavement-support-payment
- In Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/bereavement-support-payment
Blue badges help people who are disabled or who have certain health conditions park closer to their destination.
Some people automatically receive a blue badge because of their condition; others must apply.
These badges cost £10 in England and Northern Ireland, and £20 in Scotland, and are free in Wales.
How to apply:
- In England, Wales, and Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge
- In Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/apply-or-renew-blue-badge
Free TV License
If you’re over 75 and you receive Pension Credit, you can apply for a free TV license.
How to claim: https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/for-your-home/aged-74-and-over-aud3
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Challenge a Benefits Decision?
Before challenging a decision, it’s important to note that any challenge could:
- Reduce your benefits
- Stop your benefits
- Have no impact on your benefits, or
- Increase your benefits
It’s a good idea to ask for a ‘written statement of reasons’ so you can see why the decision was taken.
Once you have this written statement, you can ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.
If you’re unsatisfied with the result of the mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal the reconsideration at HM Courts and Tribunals Service. See here for more advice.
Can I Ask For an Advance on My Benefits?
The .gov website says that if you are in urgent financial need, you may be able to get an advance on your benefit payments.
They continue to say that you may be eligible for this if you have recently applied for:
- Universal Credit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
- State Pension.
Can I Get a Grant From My Local Council?
Some councils offer financial support to pensioners. Contact your local council directly for more information.
I’m a Pensioner. Can I Get a Free Boiler?
If you have a household income of less than £16,010 and receive pension credit, you may be eligible for a free boiler and/or free central heating.
Find out the full information here.
I Was Living Abroad but Now I’ve Returned to the UK. Do I Still Get a Pension?
If you paid into National Insurance in the UK, you may be entitled to a state pension.
Depending on your income, you may also be entitled to certain extra benefits such as Pension Credit, House Benefit, or a discount on your council tax. To find out how much you could receive, contact the government’s International Pension Centre.