Benefit entitlement changes when you reach each of two important ages: state pension age and Pension Credit qualifying age. From these ages you can move from working age benefits onto benefits for older people.
Here, we describe the most common benefits paid in retirement, with details of how to apply. Because of the complexity of the benefits system, it is best to get advice about benefits.
State pension age
Women born before 6 April 1950 reach state pension age on their 60th birthday.
Men born before 6 December 1953 reach state pension age on their 65th birthday.
Anyone born after these dates will have a higher state pension age. Under current legislation, SPA for all women will rise to age 65 by November 2018 and for everyone to age 66 by October 2020, 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046.
The Pensions Act 2014 allows for the state pension age to be increased at a faster rate in the future. The state pension age will be reviewed every five years. The first review is due to be completed by May 2017. The SPA will then be set according to a range of factors, including average life expectancy. It is intended that, on average, you should spend no more than one third of your adult life in retirement.
This means that, if life expectancy rises as predicted, state pension age may rise to age 68 by the middle of the 2030s, age 69 by the late 2040s and age 70 by the 2060s.
You can check your state pension age online.
Pension Credit qualifying age
Pension Credit qualifying age for both men and women is linked to women’s state pension age. If you are a woman, your Pension Credit qualifying age is the same as your state pension age. If you are a man your Pension Credit qualifying age is the state pension age for a woman with your date of birth. Age UK provide further information on pension credits.
Benefits for older people
State Retirement Pension (SRP)
SRP has been around since the early twentieth century and is linked to the amount of national insurance contributions paid over a working lifetime, or national insurance credits received by being in receipt of certain benefits, such as Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. Since 2010, 30 years of contributions or credits are required to give a full category A pension. It is also possible for widowed people to receive a pension based on their late spouse's contribution record (category B pension).
SRP can be paid abroad, and can be paid if someone chooses to work after their pension date.
The Pension Service should write to you if you are approaching pension age and invite you to apply. If you have not heard 3 months before you will reach pension age you can apply by:
Before reaching pension age, you can ask for a pension ‘forecast’ to calculate the amount of SRP that you will receive. You can do this by:
- calling 0845 3000 168
- writing to The Pension Service 9, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton, WV98 1LU
- completing your details online
Pension Credit (PC)
Pension Credit is payable to people who have reached the qualifying age and who have an income below the weekly minimum level the government expects someone to live on. It can act as a ‘top-up’ on a SRP, or provide complete provision to people who do not qualify for a SRP. Pension Credit can be paid to single people or to couples and currently only one member of the couple is required to be of qualifying age. However, if you come under the Universal Credit scheme you will need to claim Universal Credit if one of you is under Pension Credit age instead. For more information about Universal Credits please see www.autism.org.uk/benefits.
Pension Credit is means-tested, which means that income such as earnings and some benefits will affect the amount paid, as will savings. An additional part of Pension Credit, called savings credit, can provide a little extra money for those who have made modest provision for retirement. Savings credit can currently be paid from age 65. Another advantage of Pension Credit is that it is one of the few benefits that can help with mortgage interest costs.
Pension Credit can be claimed by calling 0800 99 1234 (or 0808 100 61 65 in Northern Ireland).
Flat Rate State Pension
A new Flat Rate (or single-tier) State Pension was introduced for anyone reaching state pension age after 5th April 2016.
The Flat Rate State Pension:
- replaces other pension elements (such as the second state pension and savings pension credit).
- is set at a rate above the basic level of means tested support (i.e. guarantee pension credit level for a single person). For 2016/17 the rate is set at £155.65 per week.
- the amount you receive may be lower if you have not paid sufficient NI contributions for the year.
- requires 35 years of National Insurance (NI) contributions or credits to receive the full amount.
- requires a minimum of 10 years contributions or credits to qualify for a smaller pro rata amount.
- is based on your individual NI contributions, not those of your spouse or civil partner.
- takes into account NI contributions paid under the current system.
- provides transitional payments for those who would have received a higher SRP under the previous system.
Attendance Allowance (AA), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
AA, DLA and PIP are benefits paid to people who have a disability. You can only be entitled to one of these benefits at a time. Which of these three benefits you are entitled to depends on your age and when you first claimed.
DLA and PIP are for people who first claimed a disability benefit when they were aged under 65. DLA is being abolished and gradually replaced by PIP. Adults (aged over 16) can no longer make a new claim for DLA in Great Britain; new claims for DLA can still be made in Northern Ireland. Therefore the following information about PIP applies to England, Scotland and Wales only. PIP is likely to be introduced and DLA abolished in a similar way in Northern Ireland but the Northern Ireland Assembly has not yet passed the necessary legislation.
If you get DLA and were born on or before 8 April 1948 you can carry on getting DLA.
If you get DLA and were born after 8 April 1948, your DLA will stop and you will be invited to claim PIP instead at some point by the end of 2017. Please see our information on the abolition of adult Disability Living Allowance.
AA, DLA and PIP are non means-tested and non-contributory benefits for people with long-term illnesses or disabilities resulting in significant care needs. This means that they are not affected by savings, earnings or other benefits and do not depend on having paid National Insurance contributions to receive them. They can be paid in conjunction with all other benefits without negatively affecting the level those benefits are paid at, and can lead to an increase in these benefits as well.
AA is paid at two levels, low and high. It is awarded based on the level of attention and supervision that a person needs with day-to-day tasks or to help them avoid endangering themselves or others. As it is not based on diagnosis, a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will not automatically lead to entitlement. However, the care needs that many people with an ASD experience mean that many older people on the autism spectrum may be eligible for AA (if they have not previously qualified for DLA or PIP).
DLA has two components, the care component that looks at the care or supervision that a person needs and the mobility component that can be paid if a person has difficulty getting around out of doors.
PIP also has two components, daily living and mobility. The criteria also looks at how you are affected by your disability. It uses points-based criteria. For more detail please see our information on Personal Independence Payment.
AA, DLA and PIP can be claimed by:
Rent and council tax
Help with rent
Housing Benefit can help towards the rent payments on your home. It can be claimed by people of any age who have to pay rent for their home. It is means-tested so will be affected by other income and savings, including some benefit income.
Housing Benefit is due to be replaced by the end of 2017. For people under Pension Credit age it will be replaced by Universal Credit. For people over Pension Credit age it will be replaced by Housing Credit, which is a component of Pension Credit.
People who live in residential homes are generally excluded from receiving Housing Benefit, because they do not have a liability to pay rent.
Local authorities (councils) administer Housing Benefit in England, Scotland and Wales and claims can be made in a variety of ways, either by completing a paper claim or online via the local authorities website. Local authorities may offer a form-filling service at their town hall or housing offices, and many will also provide a home visiting service for older people and those with disabilities.
In Northern Ireland claims can be made online or by calling the Housing Executive on 03448 920 902.
For people enquiring about potential entitlement to Housing Benefit living in privately rented property, the Local Housing Allowance information on the government's Housing Benefit web pages can give an indication of the maximum amount of benefit payable, though it will not be able to calculate the actual amount of benefit as this will be affected by income and savings. Please see www.gov.uk/housing-benefit/what-youll-get.
Housing Benefit can only help with the cost of rent payments. Help with mortgage interest repayments can be claimed if you are in receipt of Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit.
Council Tax Support (Rate Relief in Northern Ireland)
Council Tax Support can be claimed to help with council tax in Great Britain and Rate Relief can be claimed to help with rates in Northern Ireland.
Council Tax Support or Rate Relief can be claimed by anyone who has a low income and has to pay council tax or rates, including people who own their own property. Some local authorities also provide a scheme called the Second Adult Rebate, administered by Council Tax Support departments, which can give a discount on council tax liability for people if they have an adult son, daughter, friend or family member living with them, if that person is on a low income themselves.
Council Tax Support is claimed from your local authority. It replaced Council Tax Benefit which was abolished in April 2013.
If you are a tenant in Northern Ireland then you can contact the Housing Executive on 03448 920 902. If you are an owner occupier call 0800 587 7477.
Tax credits and Child Benefit
Working Tax Credit and other benefits
Some people choose to work into their retirement. Working Tax Credit can sometimes be paid to people in this category, though it is means-tested and there are other conditions relating to receipt of certain benefits. Working Tax Credit is administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC); call 0345 300 3900 or visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits.
If you or your partner are getting means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax support, get advice before claiming Working Tax Credit as it can reduce your entitlement to these benefits.
Working Tax Credit will be abolished and replaced by Universal Credit for most claimants by the end of 2017. Universal Credit can only be claimed by people under Pension Credit age, so some working pensioners will be worse off after this change.
Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit
These benefits can be claimed by anyone who has the main responsibility for bringing up a child. This can include some older people. In some circumstances you can claim up to the young person’s 20th birthday.
Child Tax Credit will be abolished and replaced by Universal Credit for most claimants by the end of 2017. If you are under Pension Credit age and have responsibility for a child you can claim Universal Credit. If you are Pension Credit age or older you will be able to claim extra amounts of Pension Credit because you have dependent children.
Benefits affected by retirement
Reaching state pension age can often mean entitlement to a wider range of benefits as described above, but it can also means that other benefits stop. Here are the main benefits affected.
Carers Allowance is a benefit paid to people who care for those who receive DLA, PIP or AA. It is an ‘overlapping benefit’ with SRP, which means that it cannot usually be paid at the same time. Only where a State Retirement Pension is less than Carers Allowance can the difference be paid. This is unusual, as Carers Allowance is currently just over £60 per week so in most cases when people reach pension age entitlement to Carers Allowance ends. It is sometimes worth claiming Carers Allowance, even if the monetary value of the benefit cannot be awarded. This is because it can add an extra amount (known as the ‘carers premium’) to some means-tested benefits. Carers Allowance can be claimed by contacting the Carers Allowance Unit on 0845 608 4321.
Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance
These benefits are paid to working age people who are unable to work due to sickness or disability. Entitlement ends at state pension age.
Jobseekers Allowance cannot be received if a person is over state pension age.
Other sources of help
Though not benefits as such, there are a number of Government schemes which can help people in retirement. The main ones are outlined below.
Winter fuel payments
Winter fuel payments are payments to help with the cost of fuel bills in the winter months. A lump sum is paid every year to everyone who is at least of Pension Credit qualifying age. The payment is between £100 and £300 per year depending on your age, what benefits you get and who you live with. People who live in residential homes are often, but not always, excluded. You can continue to claim the winter fuel payment if living elsewhere in the EU. From 2015, payments will no longer be made to people living in EEA countries with a higher than average temperature than the warmest part of the UK. Payment should be automatic, but if you do not receive them a claim can be made via the winter fuel payment helpline: 08459 151515.
Cold weather payments
Cold weather payments are separate to winter fuel payments and are paid to people receiving Pension Credit or certain other qualifying benefits. A cold weather payment is made if below freezing temperatures are recorded in your area for seven consecutive days, or forecast to be. Payments should be automatic, but if you do not receive them contact the local Jobcentre Plus office.
There are a number of schemes run by the Government to help with energy efficiency and the cost of fuel bills. The Homeheat helpline offers information to elderly and vulnerable people, including details of grants for boiler installation and negotiating lower tariffs with utility companies. Call 0800 336699 or visit www.homeheathelpline.org.uk
Free prescriptions and other health costs
People aged 60 and over are entitled to free prescriptions. Free NHS dental examinations are available for people aged 60 and over in Wales and everyone in Scotland. Throughout the UK, free dental treatment is available for people receiving Pension Credit (but not the savings element). Free eyesight tests are also available to people over 60 and again people receiving Pension Credit can qualify for vouchers towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses.
Free TV licences are available to people over 75. Call TV Licensing on 0300 790 6131 or apply online.
Free off-peak nationwide bus travel is now available to all people who are over Pension Credit qualifying age in the UK, and passes can be obtained from local authorities. In Greater London, the Freedom Pass scheme operates, offering all people living in London over Pension Credit qualifying age and some people under 60 classed as disabled free use of London tubes, buses, trams, London overground trains and some National Rail services.
Help and advice
There is no specific national welfare rights organisation and help with benefits can sometimes be hard to come by. However, the following organisations may be able to assist.
Some local authorities provide a welfare rights service, though not all will do so. To see if a local authority provides this service you should contact them by telephone. If they cannot help they may have a list of other organisations in the area that can.
Citizens Advice is a national network of free advice agencies and most large towns and cities should have a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They often provide benefits advice and will sometimes help with the completion of claim forms and even offer representation at appeals. However each CAB is a separate charity and their service will vary from office to office depending on their resources. You should check with your local bureau to find out what service they offer and how to access their service. The CAB's website has a large section on benefits which you may find useful.
Disability Rights UK
Disability Rights UK specialises in benefits matters for people with disabilities. Their website has a number of factsheets on benefit entitlement. Please note, however, that they will be unable to offer individual advice on benefits over the phone.
Age UK specialises in assisting older people.
Local advice agencies
There are many local advice agencies, including disability groups and local branches of charities, which may be able to offer advice and help with benefit enquiries. You can search online, and they should be listed in the phone book or in Yellow Pages under advice agencies.
The Government-run website www.gov.uk (or www.dsdni.gov.uk/index/ssa.htm for Northern Ireland) provides details of most social security benefits.
Last updated: August 2016
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