Cost of living: Councils urge pensioners to claim extra top-up to help with rising bills and avoid falling into poverty

About 850,000 households are believed to be missing out on vital support, at a time when the increasing cost of living is disproportionally impacting upon those on low or fixed incomes, including over-65s and those who have retired.


Lit burner on a gas cooker

Eligible older people are being urged to apply for a separate welfare benefit for pensioners to help with rising costs for energy and food bills, after only about two-thirds of those eligible for Pension Credit have claimed so far.

About 850,000 households are believed to be missing out on vital support, at a time when the increasing cost of living is disproportionally impacting upon those on low or fixed incomes, including over-65s and those who have retired.

Latest statistics show that 2.1 million (18 per cent) of pensioners in the UK live in poverty, an increase from 1.6 million (14 per cent) in 2013/14.

It comes as the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, joins the Department for Work and Pensions’ call for all those of state pension age to come forward and apply for the top-up, known as Pension Credit, which could make a crucial difference in helping people meet their essential needs.

The tax-free payment, which for single pensioners tops up weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level of £182.60, or £278.70 for couples, is also a vital gateway for claimants to be entitled to other related help such as council tax relief, support for dental care costs and the one-off cost of living payment of £650.

Residents can check they are eligible by using an online calculator, provided by the DWP, to fill in their details and find out how much they can claim. Once in receipt of Pension Credit, they can contact their local council to ask about a reduction in their council tax and other benefits.

The LGA says that this is an opportunity to think about how Pension Credit can be combined most effectively with other forms of support to end poverty in older households.

The current cost of living pressures are likely to affect our older residents who are eligible for pension credit in their ability to eat well, stay healthy and keep warm. Councils want to support older members of our communities by helping them be more resilient to these price shocks by prioritising the retrofitting of fuel efficiency measures to their homes and ensuring older people’s social inclusion and financial stability to improve health, wellbeing and loneliness.

Councils have been at the forefront of helping their residents through the current crisis, by providing advice and financial support including via the Household Support Fund, whose latest criteria includes allocating a third of the £1 billion funding towards pensioner households. Greater long-term, sustainable funding is needed in our wider welfare system to reduce the need for short-term crisis support, which includes not just benefits but employment support, environment, housing, health and financial inclusion.

Cllr Andrew Western, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “People across the country, including our oldest and most vulnerable, are feeling the pressure from rising prices and bills with some really struggling to make ends meet.

“Councils want to do all they can to help those most in need, including encouraging anyone who is eligible to receive the benefits they are entitled to and not miss out on essential support which could make all the difference.

“Increasing Pension Credit uptake will definitely help and open up avenues to other benefits, such as council tax relief and should be part of a wider, longer-term approach to making sure everyone has a decent standard of living.

“Good paying jobs, reducing housing costs and protecting poorer households from paying more for essentials, supported by a sustainable welfare system, will be what helps prevents a repeat of this crisis and make us more financially resilient for the future.”

Notes to editors

Age UK: 18 per cent of pensioners in the UK live in poverty (January 2022)

DWP Pension Credit calculator

Independent Age: The cost of pensioner poverty and non-take-up of Pension Credit (September 2020)