Although a lot of help is available to older people, it can be confusing to work out what they are all are, how old you have to be, and how to get them. This page is designed to try to guide you through all this.
Working age benefits
You cannot get Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance once you reach pension age.
However, this does mean that for men there are a few years between when your entitlement to Pension Credit begins and your entitlement to your pension begins during which you could, if you wanted to, claim Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker's Allowance instead of Pension Credit?
But why would you want to? I can think of only one good reason. If you are not entitled to any income based benefits, perhaps because of other income or savings, you might still be entitled to contribution based Employment and Support Allowance or contribution based Jobseeker's Allowance. As there is no such thing as contribution based Pension Credit it might be in your interests to claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance in this situation. But I can’t think of any other reasons. (If you can, let me know!)
Income based (means-tested) benefits
Apart from the restrictions to working age benefits I've just mentioned, you are entitled to all the income based benefits that anyone else is entitled to.
Help with heating
There are two kinds of help available here, and it’s important not to get them confused:
- Winter Fuel Payments. These are paid, whatever the weather, to everyone who is old enough to get Pension Credit.
- You will get one payment of between £100 and £300 depending on your circumstances (to find out how much you will get, click https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/what-youll-get)
- If you get a state pension, Pension Credit, or any Jobcentre Plus benefits you should be paid automatically. Otherwise you will need to make a claim. You can get a claim form from the Winter Fuel Payments Helpline by phone on 0800 731 0160
- Once you’ve had one Winter Fuel Payment you should receive payments in following winters automatically
- If you have not received a payment by around February you should contact the Pensions Service urgently as there is a deadline of 31st March for claiming a Winter Fuel Payment.
- Cold Weather Payments. These are paid to people who are getting Pension Credit (or some other income based benefits) if the weather is cold enough
- The average daytime temperature has to be 0º C or less, on average, for a full week, near where your live
- For every week this happens you get £25.
- You do not have to claim this: it should be paid automatically.
Help with disability problems
The key age here is 65. If you are younger than 65 you can claim Personal Independence Payment (or, in the past, Disability Living Allowance). If you are 65 or older you must claim Attendance Allowance.
This is, I think, the only situation where you are treated less generously by the state if you are an older person. In particular, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment pay benefit if you have trouble walking around outside, but Attendance Allowance does not.
If you are getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment when you get to the age of 65 it should carry on as before afterwards. However, if your Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment is stopped because a decision maker decides you are not disabled enough, any new claim you make after this would have to be for Attendance Allowance.
I could (and possibly at some time in the future will) give you a lot of information about Attendance Allowance, but the basics can be summed up fairly quickly:
- Attendance Allowance is designed for people who need help with what the government calls ‘bodily functions’, or who need supervision to keep them safe:
- The easiest way to understand what ‘bodily functions’ means is to ask yourself: in what ways does your body let you down? Do your joints make it hard to lower yourself into a chair, or the bath, or the toilet? Are your hands so stiff that you can’t cut up food on your plate? Do problems with your eyes prevent you from getting around your home? Do you keep soiling your clothes, or the bed, because your bowels are not working properly?
- You may have supervision needs because you have problems with hearing or seeing, or because you have mental health problems, or you have learning difficulties (strictly speaking, supervision at night is called ‘watching over’ but it amounts to much the same).
- If you just need help with cooking, cleaning, and shopping Attendance Allowance is not able to help you.
- There are two rates:
- Lower rate: for this you need quite a lot of help or supervision during the day, or during the night, but not both. It is paid at a rate of £57.30 per week.
- Higher rate: for this you need a lot of help or supervision both day and night. It is paid at a rate of £85.60 per week.
- It is not income based and is not contribution based. So it doesn’t matter what other money you have coming in, or whether you have paid any national insurance contributions.
- Sometimes other benefits are increased if you are getting Attendance Allowance. For example, if you get Attendance Allowance, live alone, and no-one gets Carer’s Allowance for looking after you, you get an extra £64.30 on your Guarantee Pension Credit per week (see Pension Credit for more information).
- To claim Attendance Allowance to need to fill in a form. You can get a form by phoning the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0845 712 3456.
Help with caring for others
If you are caring for someone who is ill or disabled you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance, just as a younger person would be. For information about this click here
Other types of help
These are not, strictly speaking, social security benefits, but it doesn’t do any harm to mention them, especially as the ages at which you qualify vary:
- Free prescriptions, if you’re 60 or older.
- Free eye tests if you are 60 or older.
- Free bus travel between 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 p.m. on weekdays and all day at weekends if you are old enough to get Pension Credit.
- Free TV licence if you’re 75 or older (if you live with someone who is younger than 75 (say your spouse) and the licence is in their name, you can apply to have it changed into your name so that you can get it free).
|If you are getting the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit you will also be entitled, as well, to help with dental costs, glasses, and some other things.|
There have been quite a lot of changes to benefits as the result of a recent government drive to save money. However these do not generally effect older people:
- The Benefit Cap does not apply to you if you are old enough to get Pension Credit and are not getting Income Support, income based Employment and Support Allowance, or income based Jobseeker's Allowance (and if you are old enough to get Pension Credit and you are getting Income Support etc, why? You should move over to Pension Credit straightaway!).
- The Bedroom Tax does not affect you if you are old enough to get Pension Credit.
- Universal Credit
will not normally affect you, as you cannot get Universal Credit if
you are old enough to get Pension Credit. However, if you are part of
couple, and one of you is too young to get Pension Credit, it looks
like you will have to claim Universal Credit, not Pension Credit.