This is a means-tested top-up to your income. You must be over state pension age to get it; if you have a partner, you must both be over state pension age to qualify.
If you reached state pension age on 6 April 2016 or later, then pension credit will top up your income to £167.25 a week, or to £255.25 for a couple’s joint income. So a single person who only has an income from a state pension of £130 a week will get an extra £37.25. These amounts are called the ‘guarantee credit’. If you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, then pension credit is slightly better. The guarantee credit still applies. In addition, extra money – called savings credit – will top up your weekly income even if it’s above the guaranteed amounts. A single person could get up to an extra £13.73 a week, and a couple up to £15.35.
If you have a severe disability, the guarantee credit is £65.85 more. If you are a carer it’s up to £36.85 more. ‘Severe disability’ includes people who qualify for a benefit called attendance allowance. The definition of a ‘carer’ is complex but broadly it means you care for someone else who is severely disabled, for at least 35 hours a week.
If you have capital over £10,000, then your pension credit will be reduced. Capital includes cash in the bank, building society, or National Savings, any investments or property apart from the one you live in. For a couple, add together both partners’ capital. The reduction in pension credit will be £1 a week for every £500 (or part of that) of capital over £10,000. There is no upper limit, but at some level of savings your pension credit will be reduced to nothing.
To claim call 0800 99 1234.
Council tax reduction
If you live alone, your council tax should be reduced by 25%. Check if ‘reduction for single occupancy’ is shown on your bill. If it is not, then tell your council and ask for it to be backdated to whenever you started living alone at that address.
Your council tax will also be reduced if your income is low. If you get pension credit or you are over state pension age and your income is up to £181 per week (single) or £270.60 (couple), then all your council tax should be paid for you. The amounts are higher if you are a carer or have a severe disability. If your income is higher you may still get some reduction, especially if your council tax is high. Council tax has increased over the past few years, so even if you have been rejected before, you should apply again. If you do not get pension guarantee credit and your capital is over £16,000, then your council tax reduction may be less.
Claim from the council that sends you the bill. In Northern Ireland, claim to get your rates reduced at nidirect.gov.uk/rates-housing-benefit
Could equity release affect your benefits?
If you pay rent, as a growing number of pensioners do, you may be able to get it reduced through housing benefit payments. The income limits are the same as those for council tax reduction. Housing benefit will not cover inclusive heating charges or cleaning services. But if your home is deemed to be too expensive or too big for your needs you may not get all your rent paid, however low your income is. There are no rules about capital for housing benefit if you get the guarantee part of pension credit. If you do not, then your capital must be less than £16,000.
Claim from the council that sends you your council tax bill.
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If you have a severe physical or mental disability and need care from someone else, then you may be entitled to attendance allowance. It is not means-tested. You must be over state pension age (currently 65 1/2) and need what is called ‘frequent attention’ from someone else during the day with your ‘bodily functions’ such as eating, washing, going to the toilet and so on, or to watch over you so that you don’t hurt yourself or someone else. The rules are similar but slightly different for the night-time needs. If you fulfil either the day or the night conditions, attendance allowance is £58.70 a week. If you fulfil both the day and the night conditions, it is £87.65 a week.
If you are in a care or nursing home, then you can get attendance allowance if you pay all your own fees (called self-funding). Otherwise you cannot claim it.
Claim call the helpline 0800 731 0122. In Northern Ireland, visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/attendance-allowance
Know your disability rights
If you care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week you may get carer’s allowance. It is £66.15 a week (plus a supplement in Scotland, see mygov.scot/carers-allowance-supplement). If you get a state pension, you cannot get carer’s allowance on top of that but it is important to claim as it will boost your means-tested benefits. If you earn more than £123 in a week, then carer’s allowance will stop.
Claim call 0800 731 0122 (in Northern Ireland 0800 587 0912)
For information on grants and other sources of income, contact these organisations:
• Independent Age 0800 319 6789
• Age UK 0800 678 1602
• Carers UK has a helpline providing information open Monday and Tuesday, 10am-4pm 0808 808 7777
• Help with rates or rent in Northern Ireland, call Housing Benefit helpline 0300 200 7802, nidirect.gov.uk/rates-housing-benefit or housingadviceni.org
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