As you get older, income can become unpredictable. Ill health, job loss, divorce, bereavement and retirement are just some of the reasons why you might have to manage on less money than before.
Benefits can help to top your income -- but like many people, you may be unsure about what benefits you're entitled to over 50, and how you claim.
This means you could be missing out. According to Age UK, around £728 per person a year goes unclaimed in Council Tax Support, while around 1.6 million older people fail to claim an average £33 a week in Pension Credit.
Could you claim Pension Credit?
Our guide tells you more about the many benefits for over 50s that are there to help when times are tough.
What benefits can I claim if I'm working?
If you're working and on a low income, you may be able to claim Working Tax Credits. Up to age 59, you must be working at least 30 hours a week unless you're still responsible for children.
After age 60 (or at any age if you're disabled), you only need to be working 16 hours a week.
More about Working Tax Credit
What benefits can I claim if I lose my job?
You could claim Jobseeker's Allowance up to State Pension age if you're working fewer than 16 hours a week and looking for work.
More about benefits when you've lost your job
What is State Pension age?
The age at which you can claim your pension, known as the State Pension age, is gradually being made the same for men and women.
The State Pension age if you were born before 6 December 1953 is:
- 65 for men
- between 60 and 65 for women, depending on when you were born
For men and women born on or after 6 December 1953, it will gradually increase to:
- 66 by October 2020
- 67 between April 2026 and March 2028
Use the GOV.UK calculator to work out your State Pension age and Pension Credit qualifying age.
Will you lose out in the changes to the State Pension?
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What benefits can I claim if I'm sick or disabled?
If you're under State Pension Age, you could claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to replace lost income if you aren't getting Statutory Sick Pay.
You may also be able to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to help with the extra costs of your illness or disability. In Northern Ireland you'll need to claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Once you reach State Pension age, you might be able to claim Attendance Allowance (AA) instead.
PIP, AA and DLA are non means-tested, so you can apply for them regardless of how much income or savings you have.
If you have care needs, ask your local authority for a care needs assessment. If you're on a low income you may not have to pay for the care you need.
More about disability and sickness benefits
What benefits can I claim if I'm a carer?
You could get Carer's Allowance if you look after someone for 35 hours a week or more and earn less than £110 a week. It doesn't matter how much you have in savings.
The person you're caring for should also be getting a sickness or disability benefit, like PIP or AA. You'll need to check with them first - as if you get Carer's Allowance this could affect the amount they get in other benefits.
If you're on a low income you may also be able to claim Income Support.
If you don't qualify to get Carer's Allowance or Income Support and you're under State Pension age, you may get Carer's Credit, which tops up your National Insurance contributions towards your State Pension.
There are other benefits, such as help with funeral costs, which you can apply for if you're on a low income.
How to claim Carer's Allowance
Pension Credit tops up your income to a guaranteed level if you're living on an income below £155.60 for single people or £237.55 if you're in a couple.
Both men and women can apply for Guaranteed Pension Credit when you reach the State Pension age for a woman.
You may also be able to apply for Savings Credit when you reach age 65 if you have low income and savings.
More about Pension Credit
Winter Fuel Payment
Once you reach Pension Credit Age, you'll be eligible to apply for the Winter Fuel Payment. It's worth between £100 and £300 a year, depending on your circumstances. It's not means-tested and you don't have to have paid National Insurance Contributions to get it.
More about Winter Fuel Payment at GOV.UK.
You can claim State Pension when you reach State Pension age, even if you carry on working past this date. You can choose to defer it if you want.
More about State Pensions
Other benefits if you're on a low income
Claiming any of these benefits may mean you're entitled to get other support too, for example for housing or health costs.
Other benefits include:
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit if you're renting
- Support for Mortgage Interest
- Council Tax Support
- Free NHS Prescription and health costs.
Check what support you might be entitled to: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/make-sure-youre-getting-the-right-entitlements
What benefits can I claim if I'm bereaved?
You may be able to get a one-off £2,000 Bereavement payment if your husband, wife or civil partner dies and you're under State Pension age.
You can also get this if you're over State Pension age and your partner wasn't taking their State Retirement pension. Bereavement payment isn't means tested, so you could get it regardless of your income or savings.
If you're under State Pension age and find yourself on a low income, you may be able to get a weekly Bereavement Allowance if you're not responsible for children or claim Widowed Parent's Allowance if you are.
For more help with bereavement, browse our useful information
Only single jobseekers can make a new claim for Universal Credit regardless of where you live in England, Scotland and Wales, although if you're in a couple you can claim Universal Credit if you live in one of these areas: Jobcentre areas where couples and families can claim Universal Credit
You may be affected in the future if you're already claiming certain benefits as people are moved over to Universal Credit.
More about Universal Credit
Get a full benefits check
Knowing whether you're entitled to benefits can be complicated as it depends on your individual circumstances. It's always best to do a benefits check first.
You can use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to work out what you might be eligible for. You can also find out if there any charitable grants that you could apply for too.
This article was originally provided by the Money Advice Service.
Next article: What benefits am I entitled to when I retire?