Pension credit ‘should be automated’ for needy seniors

Pension credit applications need to be “de-cluttered” and in future automated to help older people facing soaring bills, according to an influential financial industry veteran.

Take-up is currently “low” with around 850,000 eligible households without pension credit, says Henry Tapper, who is setting up a task force to reduce pensioner poverty by reducing that number.

Pension Credit tops up weekly income to a minimum of £182.60 for singles and £278.70 for couples after an annual increase next month, but you can earn thousands of pounds more with help housing, heating, housing tax, TV licenses and others. invoices.

Cost of living: inflation is 6.2%, while state pension and pension credit will rise by 3.1% next month

Tapper, who chairs industry networking platform Pension Playpen, said “the pensions industry should stick with it” to help reduce the number of non-claimants by “benefiting people who don’t know not”.

After a recent meeting with Pensions Minister Guy Opperman, he promised that his new task force would create a feasibility study on how to simplify eligibility criteria and make the pension credit automatic where there is a clear right.

Tapper’s move comes after older people struggling with the rising cost of basic necessities received no further help from the Chancellor in last week’s spring statement.

There is widespread anger that the triple lockdown has been scrapped this year so the state pension and pension credit will rise by 3.1% in April, while the inflation rate has just hit 6.2%.

Tapper says: “With inflation soaring, the use of pension credit is a particularly pressing issue at the moment. The spring statement was shocking news for retirees.

“Had the triple lockdown been enforced this year, pensioners would have expected a state pension increase of 8%, but instead face an actual drop in the cost of living of 5%.

How to apply for pension credit

You can register by phone, online or by mail, or a friend or family member can register on behalf of a senior.

You can call 0800 99 1234, apply online here or find out how to apply by post here.

Charities also have other useful information.

Age UK has a help page here and a free national advice line on 0800 169 65 65 where staff will check that you receive everything you are entitled to, including pension credit and attendance allowance.

The Citizens Advice Bureau offers help here.

“For those on subsistence level, it’s 5% they can’t afford to lose. It is a shame that we have pensioners living in poverty, while at the same time 850,000 households are not claiming this much-needed benefit.

Tapper says he aims to create a strategic solution to the pension credit utilization problem, explaining, “The pension credit eligibility is really complicated and it needs to be decluttered. In the first stage, we will have to be a little less concerned with the details.

“Most of the information needed is available and can be fed into an automated system run by the government,” he adds, comparing this to work done on pension dashboards or “real-time information” sent by employers to the tax authorities.

“We can do things that are better, short-term tactical fixes, and it’s not impossible to automate that. It will take time and willpower.

Tapper says the DWP’s latest survey of people with potential pension credit claims carried out in 2012 found they didn’t know what it was or if they were eligible, and feared that by claiming they would lose elsewhere.

“While there are many barriers for people applying for a pension credit, the most worrying thing is that many don’t even know it exists. It is time the government considered automating its delivery rather than relying on the current difficult application process.

He adds: ‘The efforts of the Department for Work and Pensions to get the message out through regional newspapers are welcome, but more can and should be done.

“The minister told me there is a pension credit task force, but it seems very low key and can’t even be searched on Google. Promotion should not be left to [TV presenter and campaigner] Martin Lewis, the pension industry should be stuck.

Asked about Tapper’s plan, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said: ‘We want to ensure pensioners receive all the support they are entitled to and continue to work closely with stakeholders and others to increase the pension credit awareness.

Henry Tapper: pension industry should get involved to help improve use of pension credits

Henry Tapper: pension industry should get involved to help improve use of pension credits

“The latest figures show pension credit take-up is at its highest level since 2010, with new claims 30% higher in 2021 compared to 2019.”

What is being done to promote Pension Credit and how do you get help?

Former pensions minister Ros Altmann has campaigned for years to raise awareness of the pension credit, including urging relatives and friends of struggling pensioners to help them apply via an article on This is Money.

She says: “Increasing pension credit take-up is absolutely essential as we are about to see a sharp rise in pensioner poverty.

“Not only is it a way to supplement those with insufficient public pensions (mostly women), but it also gives people extra money from other extras available to those living on pension credit. . These are worth hundreds or thousands of pounds a year in extra money.

Altmann says pension credit needs to be properly promoted, adding: “The government has said it wants to increase take-up but has done little to achieve this important goal.

“Promoting pension credit will cost large sums of money with advertisements on national television, local radio and in local or national newspapers – in easily understandable language.”

Age UK has also tried to help more people apply for pension credit, and its helpline staff are assisting people with complaints.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘Pension Credit can make such a difference to an older person’s standard of living that it’s such a shame that so many people who should get it are missing out. the call.

Latest figures show take-up of pension credit is at its highest level since 2010, with new claims 30% higher in 2021 than in 2019.

Guy Opperman, Minister of Pensions

“Successful governments have been appallingly complacent about low take-up figures and have essentially accepted the idea that it is acceptable for so many low-income pensioners to go without the money that is rightfully theirs.

“When the government transferred responsibility for television licenses for the over 75s to the BBC several years ago, it led to unprecedented publicity about the pension credit, as only those who benefited from it were to be eligible to a free license.

“We were hoping this would lead to a big increase in successful pension credit claims, but in fact the increase was quite modest. The latest figures show that around a third of eligible pensioners are still not receiving their due.

“The pension credit, as it is currently constructed and delivered, is simply not reaching everyone who needs it and needs a fundamental review. With skyrocketing prices and many low-income seniors struggling to pay their bills, there will never be a more important time to ensure that additional financial assistance reaches those who need it most. need.

“In the meantime, we urge older people to check their full entitlements and apply for pension credit if they think they may be eligible.” See box above for how to contact Age UK for help with an application.

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