Unclaimed pension credit is a national scandal - Christine Grahame

You may be entitled to unclaimed Pension CreditYou may be entitled to unclaimed Pension Credit
You may be entitled to unclaimed Pension Credit
These past few weeks pensioners have been receiving notification from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of the amounts they will be paid as from April this year – but did you know that 40 per cent of pensioners entitled to Pension Credit do not claim it?

This is a figure that has remained unchanged for decades. So, what is Pension Credit? You can check this out online (it is a UK benefit) to see if you qualify, or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Broadly speaking you must be in receipt of a State Pension and then when you apply for Pension Credit your income is calculated to determine if you qualify. If you have a partner, your income is calculated with theirs. If you qualify Pension Credit tops up your weekly income to £201.05 if you’re single or you have a joint weekly income with a partner, to £306.85.

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Even if your income is higher, you might still be eligible for Pension Credit for example, if you have a disability, you care for someone, you have savings or you have housing costs. Apart from that direct income boost if you get Pension Credit it opens the doors to other help, such as: Housing Benefit if you rent the property you live in, cost of Living Payments, support for Mortgage Interest if you own the property you live in, a discount, a free TV licence if you’re aged 75 or over, help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments.

If you get a certain type of Pension Credit, help with your heating costs through the Warm Home Discount Scheme and even a discount on the Royal Mail redirection service if you’re moving house. So you see for that 40 per cent of non-claiming pensioners across the Lothians it’s worth seeing if you are entitled. That is an important word, “entitled” – it is not charity. There are many reasons why some folk have a low state pension. They may have had periods off work due to sickness, caring for children or others, redundancy and so on.

Now, why the UK government does not improve uptake makes me cross. When pensioners received that notification of small pension increases from April there is nothing on that letter to advise of the possibility of Pension Credit. Why not? When you think the UK Treasury is estimated to save £1.7 billion from not paying it and across the Lothians alone it is estimated that the figure for unclaimed Pension Credit in Edinburgh is £11 million, West Lothian £5.5m, East Lothian £3m and Midlothian £2.5m. That’s a lot of millions which could support eligible pensioners. Still, if you are over 80 be grateful, you’re still getting an extra 25p a week. What an insult. In these tough times with the UK government taking us from austerity into recession every claim counts.

Please do chase this up if you think you might be entitled, and even if you are not sure. It is your money, not the UK Treasury’s and it could be your entitlement. That £1.7bn in unclaimed Pension Credit held by the Treasury is a scandal.

Christine Grahame is an SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale