More pensioners are missing out on benefits

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MORE than half of the UK’s pensioners could be missing out on state benefits worth hundreds of pounds every year, according to a new study.

The survey suggests that many pensioners are finding it harder to understand the rules governing benefits, and, as a result, failing to collect cash that should be theirs.

The research from specialist retirement intermediary Just Retirement Solutions indicates that people who have worked hard all their lives are losing out when they become pensioners.

The company’s 2012 survey of clients found that 23 per cent were failing to claim any of the benefits they were entitled to, which means they were losing an average of £655 a year.

In some cases, those surveyed were missing out on £3,631 a year.

The study also found that 33 per cent of pensioners who were claiming some benefits were not receiving their full entitlement. On average, these pensioners were missing out on an extra £213 a year.

Many of the pensioners who did not claim the benefits to which they were entitled owned properties of around “average value”.

According to Just Retirement Solutions, this suggests that many of the pensioners who are losing out mistakenly believe that they can’t receive benefits because they own property.

Official data shows that owner-occupiers are less likely to claim benefits than those who are renting, and pensioner couples are less likely to claim than single pensioners.

This is the third year that Just Retirement Solutions has produced its State benefits research, and the numbers of pensioners failing to claim their full benefits continues to increase.

“Many pensioners are struggling to make ends meet due to insufficient pension income and depressed savings returns,” said Stephen Lowe, Just Retirement’s group external affairs and customer insight director.

“At the same time they are missing out by failing to claim the benefits they should be receiving, often to the tune of hundreds of pounds each year, that could make a real difference to their quality of lives.”

“The trend is that more people are missing out each year,” Mr Lowe added. “The only positive point is that the amounts being missed have come down, but that may reflect a less generous benefits regime.

“With every client our professional financial advisers first check to make sure people are getting their full entitlement.

“These are usually people who had long working lives, bought houses and paid their taxes.

“Many have never claimed benefits in their lives and really don’t know where to start.”

The study found that the Guaranteed Pensions Credit was most likely to be claimed by respondents. Only one per cent of customers were failing to claim any entitlement and four per cent were not claiming the full amount. However, Council Tax Benefit was being claimed by just 26 per cent of Just Retirement Solutions’ customers, but should have been claimed by 48 per cent of them.

“Part of the problem is what people perceive as the constant tinkering with the benefits rules that make it hard for people to keep up with the complexities,” said Mr Lowe.

“Already this year, plans for a new flat-rate state pension have been announced, and over the next two years we are seeing the introduction of the new Universal Credit and various other chang-es.

“If you are not professionally involved it is hard to keep up.”

Recent figures from the Department of Work and Pensions showed that around one-third (between 32-38 per cent) of those entitled to Pension Credit failed to claim it.

The total income lost was between £2bn and £2.8bn a year.