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Winchester pensioners missing out on benefits, report says
HUNDREDS of Winchester’s pensioners are living in unnecessary poverty, a new study shows.
In central Hampshire as many as 1,500 people are failing to claim Pension Credit, a ‘top-up’ benefit paid out to the poorest.
The report, from the charity Independent Age, comes as help groups report growing numbers of pensioners struggling to make ends meet.
Philip Voce, chairman of Age UK Winchester, said his organisation, in conjunction with the Andover branch, had helped the elderly claim more than £50,000 in entitlements this year.
“With all of these people it’s the cost of living. Shopping, utilities, gas and water are all going up beyond the rate of inflation and pensions are not going up in line with those costs.
“A lot of older people who live on their own do not have family to advise them and the paper work is quite complicated and I would like to see that simplified.
“We launched an advice service last year and people can contact us and we give them advice on what they’re entitled to,” he said.
Those eligible would see their pensions rise to at least £145.40 a week. Nationwide, up to 38 per cent of pensioners – around 1.6m - are failing to claim the benefit.
Independent Age’s report, using figures from the Department of Work and Pensions, shows a similar picture throughout Hampshire.
Around 1,500 pensioners are missing out in Test Valley, 2,900 in the New Forest, and 1,900 in Basingstoke and Deane. In Southampton that number rises to 4,400.
Victoria Richards, of Independent Age, said: “In some cases Pension Credit can also passport pensioners to other benefits such as council tax and housing benefit. And when claimed with Attendance Allowance, it can almost double some people’s incomes.”
Cllr Tony Coates, portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and environment at Winchester City Council, said the problem is the responsibility of central government.
“We have systems in place to make sure pensioners get the benefits that are paid out by us and the Citizens Advice Bureau are in a position to advise people as to their entitlements. The city council gives the Bureau around £130,000 a year.
“Pension Credit comes from the Department for Work and Pensions, but it’s a question of bringing horses to water: you can advise people to do certain things but they do not necessarily do it.
“Do you think the city council should be doing the job of the government? I would say there have been cuts and there is a limit to what we can do.”
Independent Age has launched a free Wise Guide book to help pensioners put more cash in their pockets. To order, call 0845 2621863.
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