Around £3.7 BILLION in benefits meant for struggling pensioners go unclaimed each year, according to a leading charity.
Analysis of a report by Age UK reveals that 1.3 million entitled pensioners did not claim Pension Credit in 2013-14. This amounts to a staggering £2.86 billion in lost benefits, or £2,132 per person.
There are currently around 1.6 million pensioners in the UK who are “struggling to make ends meet”; despite increases to the State Pension and the government’s promise to protect pensioner benefits.
Around 900,000 older people are believed to be living in “severe poverty”, says Age UK.
Despite the introduction of Pensions Credit in 2003, the proportion of older people in the UK living in poverty increased from 13% in 2012/13 to 14% in 2013/14.
The report also shows that 260,000 pensioners missed out on Housing Benefit during the same period, “sacrificing £820 million in total or £3,224 each a year”.
The charity warns that inequality among older people is on the rise, with the income of poorer pensioners falling at a faster rate than higher income groups.
Between 2010/11 and 2012/13 the incomes of the poorest 10% of pensioners fell by 6%, compared to just 3.8% for the richest 10%.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director for Age UK, said: “There are still 1.6 million very poor older people struggling to make ends meet, with many more apparently heading the same way.
“Worryingly, the poorest pensioners are losing ground the fastest, leading to a widening gap between ‘the haves and the have-nots’ among those in retirement.”
Age UK is urging the UK Government to tackle what is describes as the “scandal” of UK pensioners trapped in poverty, who may not be receiving the vital financial support they are entitled to.
Caroline Abrahams said: “We urgently need a concerted effort to help the most vulnerable. Better access to good quality information and advice, and increased take-up of pensioner benefits would be a good start.
“A national strategy with firm targets and workable solutions is also long overdue.”
“Ultimately we want to see pensioner poverty halved by 2020 but in the meantime, ensuring that the poorest pensioners receive all the help to which they are entitled would make a huge difference to many lives.”
Professor Jose Iparraguirre, Age UK’s Chief Economist and author of the report, said: “Most commentators opined that the Summer 2015 Budget left older people untouched.
“Yet in view of the unacceptable levels of material deprivation and the alarming number of poor pensioners missing out on the benefits they are entitled to, ‘no news’ in this case seems to be ‘bad news’. This report shows there is a lot to do on behalf of those who are most in need.’
As well as facing day-to-day financial struggles, “around 2.7 million older people are stuck at home and unable to go on a social outing even just once a month, whilst 1.2 million pensioners could not replace their cooker if it broke down”, says Age UK.
Responding to the worrying figures, Minister for Pensions Baroness Altmann said pensioners have “contributed to our society and economy over many decades” and “deserve to be looked after in their retirement”.
She added: “Basic State Pension is now higher relative to average earnings than it has been for over two decades and we have protected key support for pensioners including Winter Fuel Payments, free prescriptions, free eye tests and bus passes.
“But we want pensioners who meet the criteria for Pension Credit claim that money to help them live more comfortable lives.”
Baroness Altmann is urging older people who think they may be entitled to Pension Credit to call 0800 991234.