Dundee CAB Q&A Older Persons Advice
Help in retirement:
Q. Dear Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau
Last year, I retired and started to receive my state pension. After working hard for the last 35 years, I had managed to put away £15,000 in savings. I soon realised that the state pension wasn’t enough to get by and my savings are quickly being depleted (Especially in having to keep up with my rent and council tax bills). I have a disability which makes it hard for me to get around and due to coronavirus, I am feeling quite isolated and ignored in the house. Am I entitled to any help?
A. Hi Barbara!
Many older people are not aware that they would be potentially eligible for pension top ups, council tax reductions, help with housing costs, disability benefits and other support in relation to health and travel. A change of circumstances like a drop in income or developing a new health condition, may be a good time to find out what support is out there.
I have outlined below some of the most common types of support. Your eligibility will depend on your individual circumstances, so getting an expert to carry out a benefits check before you apply is recommended. They may also be able to help you apply and direct you to any additional support which might be available.
Pension Credit from the Pensions Service
Pension Credit can help top up your income, if you have reached state pension age and are on a low income. What is a low income? It’ll depend on your individual circumstances. If you are part of a couple, disabled or a carer, your income can be higher before the cut off applies. There is no limit on how much savings you can have, but any savings of over £10,000, will affect how much you can receive. You can also be a home owner and still receive this benefit.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction from the your Local Council
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction can help towards your rent costs and also give you some relief on your council tax bill. Whether you are eligible will depend on your income and savings. If you have savings of under £16,000 you can apply, however any savings of over £10,000 will influence how much you can receive.
Some more complicated support exists for home owners with a mortgage. So specialist advice should be sought for this.
As your savings reduce over time, this may mean you are entitled to a higher amount of the above benefits. Just make sure you don’t dispose of your savings on purpose to gain entitlement, as that is against the rules.
Disability benefits from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
If you are already receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for help with your health conditions or disabilities, you will likely be better off staying on these current benefits. You should seek specialist advice if you are considering moving from these.
Attendance Allowance is the main disability benefit for people that have reached state pension age. It doesn’t take your income or savings into account and is assessed based on the support you need, because of your health conditions or disabilities. There will be a large form to fill in, which charities like Dundee Citizens Advice can help with. You may qualify if your disability or health condition means that you need additional attention or supervision from another person (you don’t have to actually be receiving this support already). If you qualify, you will receive extra money, which you can spend however you like and this won’t affect any of your other benefits.
Once you’ve been awarded a disability benefit, if someone cares for you for 35 hours or more a week, they may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance for looking after you. Warning in that this may affect yours or their benefits, so specialist advice should be sought before claiming.
Dundee has plenty of great charities and community support available. This includes:
Helping Older People Engage (HOPE) who raise awareness of the support available to older people and help them access this.
Volunteer Dundee, who have a Blether Buddy befriending service to chat to and meet new people.
There is also The Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, who can carry out an assessment on your health conditions or disabilities and work with you to see what extra support you require.
If you are a senior (55+) and want to check what support is available to you, Gillian from the Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau can help. Call her on 07724569579 to arrange an appointment for free advice.