Struggling to pay the bills: claim a pension credit for the next £324 cost of living payment and unlock extra help
Older people on low incomes are being urged to apply for pension credit to qualify for the next £324 cost of living payment – amid fears some are too scared of higher bills to turn on their heating.
Age UK says it is important to submit an application by December 18 so that if successful the application can be backdated by three months and make them eligible for the additional government payment.
The recent backlog of pension credit applications should not deter people, says the charity, which will help people call its free advice line (0800 169 6565) to get all the support they are entitled to with the bills.
He revealed some of the comments received from elderly callers, who say they only use the heating for an hour a day, or ‘it’s so cold you can see my breath in the house when I talk’ – see below .
Temperatures are dropping and extreme weather, including snow, is expected in the UK in the coming days.
To those worried about turning on the heating, Gareth Kloet, energy spokesperson for comparison website Go.Compare, says: “The message I want to get across is that you need to think about your personal safety.
“The cold is a killer. You must stay warm enough to ensure that you are healthy.
Scroll down to read Kloet’s advice for elderly and vulnerable people concerned about heating costs.
What help is available if you’re struggling with bills?
If you are old and poor, pension credit tops up weekly income to a minimum of £182.60 for singles and £278.70 for couples.
Like the state pension, it will be increased by 10.1% next April.
Age UK says that submitting an application by Sunday December 18 means that if successful, you will be entitled to an additional £324 elderly payment from the government.
The pension credit also opens the door to lots of extra help, including a one-time payment of £150 from the Warm Home Discount scheme to help pay energy bills, an extra £25 cold weather payment if the average temperature is zero degrees or less for a week in a row and other household bill reductions.
The charity says that despite the benefits, around 770,000 eligible pensioner households are missing out.
A government campaign earlier this year to register them resulted in a backlog of claims. But Age UK says that even if your payment is delayed, the original claim date is important.
Are you old and anxious about bills?
Age UK is urging older people to call its free national advice line on 0800 169 65 65.
Their staff will check that you receive everything to which you are entitled, including pension credit and care allowance.
Find out more about pension credit here, or call Age UK who will help you.
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.
Age UK adds that energy suppliers have a duty to offer support if people are struggling with bills or debt, and you can apply for an affordable repayment plan.
“It is worrying to hear about delayed pension credits, which means low-income retirees could be waiting for much-needed extra money just as they worry about rising pensions. bills,” says Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity.
“However, that shouldn’t stop people from filing a claim now.
“Clearly more needs to be done to put money back in the pockets of those struggling to cope with the rapidly rising cost of living, and we urge the Department for Work and Pensions to take all possible action necessary to overcome any backlog and expedite the application process.
“The DWP must step up its efforts to reach those affected and ensure that everyone receives their correct entitlement as soon as possible.
“A successful claim – worth an average of £1,900 per year per household on top of the cost of living payment – could be life changing, giving people the confidence to eat well and keep their heat on over the coming months.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We want to ensure pensioners receive all the support they are entitled to, which could include an additional payment of £324 for those claiming pension credit by December 18 .”
“With the success of our recent pension credit campaign which helped drive the volume of claims submitted to a record high, additional resources are being deployed to ensure we process the increase as quickly as possible.
“Successful claims and arrears will be paid accordingly to ensure those entitled to them do not miss out.”
Meanwhile, Age UK is also urging people who pay for their electricity by prepaid meter to check that they have received a credit or voucher.
As part of its energy bill support scheme, the government has pledged £400 over six months for all households, and most people will see it credited directly to electricity accounts.
However, those with a prepaid meter – usually the lowest income people paying the highest tariffs – will either receive it on their meter each month or receive a voucher which they must redeem within three months.
Age UK says government figures show that 41% of the two million customers who have sent in a voucher have still not redeemed it, and if you think you should have one contact your energy supplier urgently .
The charity says older people who are struggling to meet energy payments can also ask their local council for extra help through the Household Support Fund.
What do retirees think of heating bills?
Age UK spoke to older people about their experiences trying to stay warm this winter and highlighted their concerns.
Carol: ‘Don’t put the heater on unless it’s really cold. I have hip replacement surgery in three weeks and I’m worried about staying warm without being so mobile.
There are so many things that increase the cost of existence. I wish I could say live, but we don’t, we just exist now
Kim: “I reduced showers/baths to twice a week. Half of my radiators are off. I go to bed very early with my electric blanket.
Anonymous: ‘We already only use the heating for an hour a day while we wash and dress. The extra help with energy costs is much appreciated, but it does not cover the price hike of a year ago.
“You have to find the balance somewhere, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Eating less, minimal or no heating are the options.
“Failing health also costs more. There are so many things that increase the cost of existence. I wish I could say live, but we don’t, we just exist now.
Anonymous : “I’m afraid to turn on the heating. I am 74 years old and I have just lost my husband. It’s so cold you can see my breath in the house when I talk. The cost of living paralyzes us.
Are you worried about heating costs? Five tips from an energy expert
Gareth Kloet of Go.Compare offers the following advice for the elderly and vulnerable.
1. Call your energy supplier: Tell them about your situation and ask to register for priority services.
In the event of scheduled power cuts, you will be notified in advance and taken to a safe place if necessary, for example if you are on dialysis. If there is an unplanned outage, recovering your energy will take priority.
Logging in can also be important if there are power outages or rationing due to power shortages this winter.
2. Prioritize your security: You need to stay warm and there are effective ways to do that, like occupying a smaller space in your home so you don’t have to heat everything.
At a minimum, you need a warm place to sleep and to keep where you live warm most of your time. You can also use a microwave for cooking, boil a half-full and not-full kettle, and take other energy-saving measures. Read a This is Money guide here, and Age UK has advice here.
Prevent your pipes from freezing: water freezes at zero degrees, expands and can burst or crack pipes.
3. Contact your supplier: If you are worried that you will not be able to pay your bill, contact your energy supplier in advance and let them know.
You want to avoid the debt collection route and, if necessary, opt for a debt repayment plan, where you might be able to pay off winter arrears, for example, while your summer bills are lower.
4. Prevent your pipes from freezing: Water freezes at zero degrees, so at or below that temperature inside your home, your pipes could freeze. Frozen water expands and can burst or crack pipes, which you may not discover until the water thaws again.
You should insulate pipes, including for example in the attic of older homes, and keep your home heated to at least a minimum temperature above freezing.
Your thermostat may allow you to set a minimum temperature of 5 degrees, but that’s very cold and it really should be 10-15 degrees minimum, or 18 degrees if possible.
5. Beware of carbon monoxide: Have your boiler serviced, buy a carbon monoxide detector, and don’t block the necessary ventilation to keep the cold out.
A symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is that the lips turn blue, which is also a symptom of being cold.
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