Elderly missing out on benefits

PUBLISHED: 08:39 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:17 30 June 2010

Stark warnings were today issued to elderly people to claim their benefits this winter as new research showed at least 28,000 pensioners in Norfolk will miss out on vital Cold Weather Payments.

Stark warnings were today issued to elderly people to claim their benefits this winter as new research showed at least 28,000 pensioners in Norfolk will miss out on vital Cold Weather Payments.

Pensioners on low incomes who receive a qualifying benefit such as Pension Credit are entitled to weekly payments of £25 but many are not claiming what they are owed.

The result is that many elderly people are suffering unnecessarily in the cold snap and may not be getting the assistance they need to help with fuel bills.

Phil Wells from Age Concern Norwich said: “There are a lot of people out there who are not getting what they are entitled to which is really concerning.

“Some people do not sign up for it because they think they do not need it. Some think filling out the form is too complicated. We are campaigning to get as many people to claim it as possible because it is what they deserve.

“In this weather it is particularly important that elderly people are taken care of. If people have problems claiming they should get in touch with us and we can help.”

New research carried out by the Lib Dems shows up to 1.7m pensioners will miss out on payments and the party has called on the government to identify pensioners who are missing out on the payments to make sure they receive the extra cash.

Simon Wright, Norwich South parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems, said: “This payment is in place to support the poorest pensioners pay their fuel bills after a period of particularly cold weather. Fuel prices are higher than ever and some pensioners are in the appalling situation of having to choose between paying to keep their heating on or to put food on their plates. For these people, this extra financial support could be a real lifeline.

“It's therefore outrageous that so many of those in greatest need are not benefiting from the cold weather payments.”

The potential tragic circumstances of people not receiving the help they need was highlighted this week with the death of a couple in Northamptonshire.

Jean and Derek Randall, both in their late seventies, were found death in their home by police in a freezing cold house after neighbours tried but failed to get help from social services - it is believed the weather exacerbated the couple's health problems.

Pam Carr, a 70-year-old from Great Witchingham is a volunteer with Age Concern Norwich and she applied for Winter Fuel Allowance a few years ago.

She said: “It was very simple - in fact I had forgotten all about it - and now I get it every year without having to do anything.”

People can get Cold Weather Payments worth £25 when temperatures are below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days when they claim a qualifying benefit.

Pension Credit is a qualifying benefit yet Department for Work and Pensions figures for 2007 to 2008 (the most recent available) show that between 1.1m and 1.7m pensioners who are poor enough to qualify for Pension Credit do not claim.

People who believe they may be entitled to a benefit can check whether they qualify and apply by calling the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 or textphone 0800 169 0133. Lines are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

When you phone you need to provide the following information: your national insurance number; information about your savings, investments and income; and details of the account into which you would like any pension credit payments to be paid.

Back payments for up to three months can be claimed on pension credit, council tax credit and other benefits, plus the associated cold weather payments triggered during that period.

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