What benefits and grants can older adults claim in 2018?

If you are getting older and find coping with the bills a struggle, the government may step into give you a helping hand with a range of benefits. A lot of older people don’t claim money they are entitled to because they are too proud to ask or do not know the money is there for the asking. Charity Age UK says around £3.5 billion earmarked as benefits to boost the income of over 65s goes unclaimed every year. If you have problems paying the bills, here’s a run down of government money you could claim to make life a little easier.

Don’t forget, you qualify for some by age, while others depend on your income and savings.

Getting around

Getting around when you are older can be tricky if you have a disability, illness or poor eyesight. Some councils and local charities run free rides to hospitals, clinics and day centres, but if you live in a rural community, simply getting to the shops can be a major logistical exercise. Most local authorities and transport operations offer discounts to older passengers, but the qualifying age can vary. Others only run their concessions at certain times of the year.

  • Buses – Contact your local council for details of any concessions in your area.  
  • Trains – A senior railcard for the over 60s costs £30 and offers a 30% discount off local and national train fares. A three-year railcard costs £70. 
  • Coaches – Companies don’t offer a national scheme, but some operators give senior discounts. National Express has a coach card giving a third off fares for £10.
  • London Freedom Pass – Only available for Londoners, a London Freedom Pass gives free travel on all rail, bus, Tube and river transport services in the capital for anyone who has reached the state pension age for women (66 years old from October 2018). 

For 60-year-olds, an Oystercard also gives free travel on Transport for London services (Bus and Tube) 

Paying the bills

A range of government and local council benefits can help the elderly struggling to pay day-to-day living costs. Most are means and age tested, which mean qualification depends on how old you are and how income and money in the bank you might have.

State pension top-ups

  • Pension credit boosts the weekly income of some pensioners in two ways:
  • Guarantee Credit is extra money for pensioners whose state pension is less than a certain level.
  • Savings Credit is another top-up who have saved in a pension but still have a low amount of money to live on.

What you get is listed in the table below – but don’t forget Savings Credit is only paid to those reaching state pension age before April 6, 2016, when the new flat-rate state pension started.

Your circumstancesGuarantee Credit per weekSavings Credit per week
Single peopleTop up to £159.35Up to £13.20
CouplesTop up to £243.25Up to £14.90

Source: Department of Work and Pensions

Find out more about Pension Credit top-ups

Council Tax Support

Council Tax discounts vary from council to council. Some offer none, while others offer savings depending on age, income and a home’s council tax banding.

Sometimes, Council Tax cuts go together with receiving other benefits, such as the Guarantee Credit top-up with Pension Credit, so it’s always worth checking with your local council to see what’s available.

Check to see if your local authority offers a Council Tax discount

Housing benefit

If you pay rent, have a low income or claim benefits and do not have more than £16,000 in savings, you could claim housing benefit.

Pensioners receiving Pension Credit Guarantee Credit are likely to have their entire rent paid.

Homeowners cannot claim housing benefit but can seek a loan under the Support for Mortgage Interest (|SMI) scheme.

More about claiming Housing Benefit and Support for Mortgage Interest

Help with heating costs

  • The government pays two sums out to help pensioners meet their heating bills during the winter.
  • The Winter Fuel Payment depends on your age and if you live with someone or claim benefits.
  • The payment is automatic, tax-free and does not impact other benefits.

Check what you can claim on the table below:

CircumstanceBorn between 25 September 1937 and 5 August 1953Born on or before 24 September 1937
You qualify and live alone (or none of the people you live with qualify)£200£300
You qualify and live with someone under 80 who also qualifies£100£200
You qualify and live with someone 80 or over who also qualifies£100£150
You qualify, live in a care home and don’t get certain benefits£100£150

Source: Department of Work and Pensions

The payment is adjusted if you or your partner claim pension credit, income-based job seeker’s allowance (JSA), income related employment support allowance (ESA) or income support.

Use the table below as a guide:

CircumstanceBorn between 25 September 1937 and 5 August 1953Born on or before 24 September 1937
You qualify, get one of the benefits and live alone (or none of the people you live with qualify)£200£300
You qualify and live with someone who also gets one of the benefits£200 - only one of you will get the payment£300 - only one of you will get the payment
You qualify, live in a care home and get one of the benefitsNILNIL

Source: Department of Work and Pensions

The Cold Weather Payment is on top of the Winter Fuel Payment and is only paid if you receive certain benefits.

If you qualify, the payment is £175 for each period between November 1 and March 31 when your local temperature has fallen to zero centigrade or lower for seven days in a row.

Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment

Health and living support

It’s an unfortunate fact of life for many of us that as we get older, our bodies are not as healthy and reliable as they used to be. The government recognises this with several concessions offered through the National Health Service.

  • Prescriptions – Prescriptions are free for the over 60s across England and Wales – although all prescriptions are free for everyone living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland anyway.
  • Eyesight tests – Everyone over 60 is entitled to a free sight test and may qualify for discounts on some glasses and contact lenses.
  • Dental treatment – Anyone receiving Pension Credit Guarantee Credit can claim free dental care

Find out more about NHS help with health costs

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a payment towards the cost of a carer looking after you.

The amount varies, depending on how much help you need.

Typical claimants are over 65-years-old who have a terminal illness or a long-term care need – which means for six months or longer.

Attendance Allowance is one of the few payments that is not means-tested, and the money does not have to go to a carer, which means you can claim if your partner or a friend or relative is looking after you.

Find out more about claiming Attendance Allowance

Carer’s Allowance and the State Pension

Carer’s Allowance pays for someone who looks after you for at least 35 hours a week. The carer can be a partner, relative, friend or a professional carer.

Unlike Attendance Allowance, this payment is taxable and may affect other benefit claims you make.

Find out more about claiming Carer’s Allowance

TV and radio

A free TV licence is an age-related entitlement that kicks in when you or someone in your household is 75-years-old. The licence is not automatic – you must apply for one.

Applying for an over-75s free TV licence

Help when someone dies

Bereavement benefits changed in April 2017, when the Bereavement Payment was scrapped in favour of the new Bereavement Support Payment and the Widow’s pension became the Bereavement Allowance.

Funeral Expenses Payment

If you claim Pension Credit or Housing Benefit you can probably claim the £700 Funeral Payment should your partner die. The money must go towards the cost of the funeral, including flowers, cremations fees and the price of a coffin.

The money must be repaid from the deceased’s estate within three months.

More about the Funeral Expenses Payment

Bereavement Support Payment

This is a one-off £2,500 payment – topped up to £3,500 if you have children living with you – plus a payment of £100 a month for 18 months.

Bereavement Allowance

Bereavement Allowance is paid weekly for a year after your partner dies. The payments depend on age and your partner’s national insurance contribution record. 

Find out more about bereavement payments

Emergency Support

In times of financial crisis there are a number of avenues you may want to explore…

  • Short term advances – If you are waiting for your first benefit payment for the State Pension, Pension Credit or Carer’s allowance then you maybe able to apply for a short term advance. Repayments will be deducted from your benefit payments once you start receiving them.
  • Local Council – Your local council maybe able to help as there are various assistance schemes you can enquire about. These vary from providing products, services to vouchers and in some cases cash payments.
  • Charities – There are a number of charities who may be able to help you, although you may have to demonstrate that you were unable to get a benefit advance or support from your local council. Use charity search to find a list of relevant charities that may be able to help.