Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Sure to Top Up Benefits That Go with Old Age; Billions in State Aid for Pensioners Is Unclaimed but Don't Forget to Persevere with Your Inquiries Even If You Are Initially Knocked Back, Simon Read Advises

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Sure to Top Up Benefits That Go with Old Age; Billions in State Aid for Pensioners Is Unclaimed but Don't Forget to Persevere with Your Inquiries Even If You Are Initially Knocked Back, Simon Read Advises

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Read

ONE in four people older than 65 is struggling to cope financially, yet up to PS5.5 billion in state financial help is going unclaimed each year, shock new figures have revealed.

There are two key reasons. First, some people are simply too proud or embarrassed to claim for benefits. But others don't know that they can apply for financial help, and in some cases are wrongly told by officials that they aren't eligible.

Typical are Linda and David, who live in Norfolk.

"We aren't what you may call badly off, although we aren't wealthy either," says David, 71.

However, in a revealing sign of how tight their finances had become, David, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, says: "We had to cancel our home insurance because we couldn't afford it any more."

The couple rely on a small, private pension David built up as a bus and coach driver, plus the state pension that he and Linda, 66, get. With the need to cut back, they spoke to Social Services about their situation and were told they weren't eligible for any extra help.

The pair struggled on until, by chance, they saw an ad about claiming benefits from Age UK. They got in touch with the charity and it sent someone round.

"Before they left, we had been awarded extra money," David says. "They managed to get a reduction on my council tax, cutting the monthly cost in half, plus pointed out that Linda was entitled to a carer's allowance, as she has to help look after me and ensure I remember the 17 tablets I'm forced to take each day because of my condition."

He says the extra money has made a huge difference: "We're able to afford to take the occasional holiday again. I'd advise everyone to check their entitlements and not take the local council or Social Services' word for it."

Age UK is warning that much more must be done to get vital benefits cash to those who need it, as its new research reveals that a quarter of all over 65s feel financially worse off compared with this time last year, and a third are worried about the general cost of living. …

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