Published in InterAction 79 (Spring 2012)
What welfare benefits can you claim when you reach retirement? Our Welfare Rights Adviser Sarah Lawrence gives an overview.
When you reach state retirement age, you can claim your State Retirement Pension (SRP). Some benefits that you were claiming will stop, including Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance.
However, you may be able to claim other benefits such as Pension Credit. Some benefits, including Housing and Council Tax benefit can be claimed before and after you reach pension age.
The age at which you can claim your SRP is rising. Although you can choose to retire earlier, you would not be eligible for your SRP until you reach your state retirement age.
For men born before 6 December 1953, the current state retirement age is 65. For women, born on or after 6 April 1950, the state retirement age has increased from 60 to 65. For women born before
6 December 1953, their state retirement age is between 60 and 65. Under the Pensions Act 2011 women’s state retirement age will increase to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018. From December 2018 the state retirement age will begin increasing, reaching 66 for everyone by October 2020.
You can work out your state retirement age at www.direct.gov.uk (just search for ‘pension calculator’) or get a SRP forecast, which tells you how much you may get, by calling the retirement pension forecasting team (see useful contacts overleaf).
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit which tops up your income. You can claim when you or your partner have reached state retirement age. There are two elements:
- guarantee credit, which tops up your weekly income to £137.35 if you are single, £209.70 if you have a partner (this may be more if you are disabled or a carer)
- savings credit, for people who have limited savings and are 65 or over.
Pension credit can help with mortgage interest payments, too. To claim, call the Pension Service, which can also help you apply for Housing and Council Tax Benefits at the same time.
Rent and council tax
If you pay rent you may be entitled to Housing Benefit to help to meet these costs. It’s a means-tested benefit so your local authority will need to assess your income and capital to see if you are eligible. If you are entitled to the guarantee credit of Pension Credit you will be entitled to full Housing Benefit.
If you pay Council Tax you may be able to get Council Tax Benefit. Also a means-tested benefit, it’s assessed in much the same way as Housing Benefit.
If you live alone you can get a single occupier discount on your Council Tax bill. There is also a disability reduction scheme that means that you will pay less Council Tax if you meet certain disability- related criteria.
If you are over 65 and have personal care or supervision needs, you may be eligible for Attendance Allowance. It is not means-tested and can increase your entitlement to other benefits.
If you already get Disability Living Allowance (DLA) you cannot also qualify for Attendance Allowance.
If you qualified for DLA before you turned 65 you can continue to get it after your 65th birthday. If you are under 65 and you have care or mobility needs you may qualify for DLA.
If you care for someone who gets Attendance Allowance or DLA (paid at the middle or highest rates of the care component) you may be able to claim Carers Allowance.
If your state pension is more than the Carers Allowance you would receive, you will instead be classed as having what is known as underlying entitlement and may get extra money with your Housing and Council Tax Benefit. Claiming Carers Allowance can affect the benefits of the person you are caring for so seek advice before claiming.
Other sources of help
Winter Fuel Payment is an annual payment to help with heating costs, made to households that include someone over Pension Credit age. Most people over Pension Credit age qualify for the payment. You will normally receive £200 if you are under 80 and £300 if you are 80 or over.
You only need to claim the Winter Fuel Payment once, and applications for this winter must be received by 30 March. After this you should get it automatically each year as long as your circumstances do not change. For more information, call the Winter Fuel Payment helpline.
You may also qualify for help with your fuel bills through the warm homes discount scheme. This automatically gives you a £120 rebate on your fuel bill if you:
- receive only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit
- have your name, or your partner’s name, on your electricity bill
- get your electricity from one of the energy suppliers participating in the scheme.
For more information, call the warm home discount scheme helpline.
Everyone over 60 gets free prescriptions and eye tests. You may also be eligible for help towards dental treatment, glasses and travel costs to hospital. Some benefits automatically qualify you for free help but you may also qualify if you have a low income. Call the Health cost advice line for more information.
Action for M.E. Welfare Rights Line Tel: 0845 122 8648
Health cost advice Tel: 0845 850 1166
Pension Service Tel: 0800 99 1234
Retirement pension forecasting team Tel: 0845 300 0168
Warm home discount scheme Tel: 0845 603 9439
Winter Fuel Payments Tel: 0845 915 1515
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