Pensioners who think they might be eligible to claim Pension Credit must apply no later than 19 May 2023 to ensure they qualify for the first £301 cost of living payment.

Up to 850,000 eligible pensioner households aren’t claiming Pension Credit and are missing out on a top up to their monthly income, as well as help with living expenses.

Only two-thirds (66%) of families that could receive Pension Credit were doing so in 2020, according to latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions. There is currently around £1.7bn of Pension Credit going unclaimed, with eligible pensioners missing out on financial support that can be worth an average of £3,500 a year.

This includes a payment of £301 which has already been made to 7m low-income households as part of the Government’s cost of living support this year. In total, these payments will amount to £900 this year. Pensioners who think they might be eligible but are yet to make an application can still qualify for the first £301 payment made this year because Pension Credit claims can be backdated by up to three months.

To ensure that backdated claims are successful, pensioners are being urged to submit their Pension Credit claims as soon as possible, and by no later than 19 May. The Department for Work and Pensions has an online Pension Credit calculator to help you check if you’re likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what you may receive.

Jon Greer, head of retirement Policy at Quilter, said: “It’s key that pensioners on low incomes check their eligibility for pension credit, if they haven’t already, as the deadline for application looms. Unfortunately, for lots of reasons many pensioners miss out on claiming pension credits whether it’s because of a lack of awareness or a feeling that they won’t be eligible so they don’t bother. However, if missed, eligible pensioners miss out on a significant boost to their retirement income and also cost of living payments.

“The importance of claiming this credit if eligible cannot be overstated, especially considering the financial challenges that many households across the country are currently facing. Pensioners have just days left to claim pension credit, which will also then mean they qualify for the latest £301 cost of living payment, which will be transferred directly to their bank accounts.”

Here’s why it’s so important to check whether you qualify for Pension Credit, and how to claim it if you are.

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How does Pension Credit work?

Pension Credit essentially tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum amount. This is £201.05 a week for single pensioners or £306.85 for couples in the 2023/24 tax year. It is a tax-free payment for those who live in Great Britain and have reached State Pension age.

As well as topping up your weekly income, claiming Pension Credit also entitles you to a range of other benefits. These include: 

  • Payments to help cover the cost of rising energy bills, which could amount to £900 over the year. Payments are available automatically to those who receive Pension Credit.
  • Help with health costs: Pension Credit claimants are entitled to free NHS dental treatment, along with help with the cost of glasses and transport to hospital.
  • A free TV Licence: If you’re aged 75 or over and are receiving Pension Credit in your name, or in your partner’s name if in a couple, you should be eligible to apply for a free TV Licence, paid for by the BBC. Find out more about the BBC licensing arrangements here. If you are currently paying for a licence but qualify for a free one you can sign in to apply for a free licence. If you think you’re eligible for a free licence and don’t currently have a TV Licence, call 0300 790 6117 and request an application form. (Lines are open between 8.30am and 6.30pm, from Monday to Friday.)
  • Help with your Council Tax: If you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, you may even get your Council Tax paid in full.
  • Help with other housing costs: If you rent your home, you may be eligible to get your rent paid in full by Housing Benefit. If you own your property, you might qualify for financial help with your mortgage interest, ground rent and service charges.

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Why are Pension Credit take up rates so low?

Lots of people assume that they aren’t eligible for Pension Credit, perhaps because they own a property or have a small pension. However, you may still be eligible to claim if you’re a homeowner, or if you have some savings or a pension. You might also qualify even if you haven’t paid National Insurance contributions, or live with your grown up family.

Many people fail to claim because they are ashamed about relying on benefits or simply because they’ve never heard of Pension Credit.

A spokesman for charity Age UK said: “There are a range of inter-related reasons why people do not claim their entitlements including: lack of awareness, an assumption that they would not be entitled to help, a concern that the process will be complicated, a reluctance to provide personal information, and negative attitudes about receiving benefits or asking for help.”

There’s absolutely no shame in claiming benefits, so if you think you might be entitled to Pension Credit, act as soon as possible.

Use the Pension Credit calculator to find out how much you might be entitled to. You don’t have to provide your personal details, such as your name and address, when using the calculator. 

Alternatively, you can make a Pension Credit claim by phone using the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234. If you’d rather make a paper application, you can request one on the above number, or you can download and print a Pension Claim form here. Find out more about how Pension Credit works in our guide Pension Credit explained

Laura Trott, Minister for Pensions, said: “Pension Credit can make a real difference and I am determined to make sure this support – worth an average of £3,500 a year – is reaching everyone who needs it, particularly as we know how much pressure households across the country have been under.

“Please check if you or your loved ones can claim for this extra support, and if you do it by 19 May you could qualify for the £301 Cost of Living Payment – giving another financial boost to those who need it most.”

Last year some claimants reported delays in getting their claims paid, although the Department for Work and Pensions maintains it works as hard as possible to process applications.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It is always concerning to hear about instances where claimants do not receive a call back when promised. We aim to contact customers within 10 working days: this will either be by a call, SMS or letter. There are ways we can escalate the processing of payments. We will always consider personal circumstances and for any vulnerable customer in financial hardship we will ensure the claim is prioritised.”

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