Cost of living: Check your benefit and pension rights urges charity

A pensioner has described her relief after receiving £900 in backdated pension credits following a visit to her local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for help with a dental bill.

By Stephen Wilkie
Friday, 1st July 2022, 12:02 am

Helen Simpson, 67, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, went to the dentist last summer with toothache and was told treatment would cost hundreds of pounds.

Ms Simpson said her income of a state pension and personal independence payment was “not enough to live on” and she struggled to afford the treatment.

She said: “I was actually shocked because I thought as a pensioner I would get it for free.

L to R: Karen Wilks (Musselburgh CAB), Helen Simpson and Sarah Baldry (Musselburgh CAB).

“So I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Musselburgh, and explained the situation. They asked me why I wasn’t claiming Pension Credit Guarantee. I said I’d never heard of it and didn’t even know what it was. They told me that it was a weekly benefit and that they thought I was eligible to claim it.”

Ms Simpson received help from CAB advisers to claim the additional benefit, which boosted her income by £83 per week, and was backdated for three months. The £900 payment was made to her bank account that evening which she describes as a “life-changing” amount of money.

She added: “Well you can imagine, I was gob-smacked. That sort of money is life-changing for me.

“Don’t get me wrong – I won’t be going on a cruise to the Bahamas or buying a Rolls Royce. I’m still living pretty near the breadline. But this extra money has made all the difference.

“It meant I could get my teeth fixed, and I can keep the heating on instead of rationing it. And there’s food in the cupboard, plus I can also treat my little dog a bit more.”

Citizens Advice Scotland, the umbrella charity responsible for all CABx in Scotland, are urging people to check what benefits and other funds they may be entitled to but not receiving.

Ms Simpson has urged others to go along to their local CABx for assistance and is helping to launch the charity’s “Get it Claimed” campaign.

“I’m keen now to get the message out to other people not to make the same mistake. You could have money sitting unclaimed right now, so get up and go for it.

“You could be like me, missing out on £80 a week. Or more. It’s your money, so get it claimed.

“If I hadn’t had a toothache last year, I’d still be sitting shivering in the cold, worried sick about how I was going to pay these big increases in energy bills. Or I’d be in debt – spiralling out of control, which is not a good place to be.”

Stephanie Millar, from Citizen’s Advice Scotland, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is hitting people hard. Nobody should be going without heat or food while there’s a pile of cash they could be claiming.

“Every penny counts. We can’t promise everyone has a fortune in unclaimed money, but it costs nothing to let us check for you.

“So today I’m asking people across Scotland to check what you’re missing out on. Your local CAB can do this whether you are in work or not, pensioner, student, single or with a family. Our service is for everyone, regardless of circumstance.”