Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Benefit change may hurt 100,000 pensioners

Any pensioner who is applying for pension credit, housing benefit, or council tax benefit would be well advised to get their application in before 6th October, whan a change comes into effect which may affect up to 100,000 of Britain's poorest pensioners and could cost them hundreds of pounds each in a benefits' shake-up.

The government says that it is changing the rules to simplify the claiming of benefits for the most vulnerable in society and giving them extra support.

But one of the changes is that from October 6th, those applying for pension credit, housing benefit or council tax benefit will only be able to have their claims backdated for three months instead of the 12 months that is currently the case.

It is estimated that around 100,000 pensioners could be affected by the change, with some potentially losing out as much as £2000.

The change will not affect existing customers and new customers can still claim 12 months' backdating if they apply before October 6.

Pension credit was introduced in 2003 and is meant to ensure that pensioners should not be living below the breadline, guaranteeing an income of £124 a week for single people and £189 for couples.

Almost half of all pensioners are entitled to claim some form of benefit yet last year more than £2.5bn of available credit went unclaimed.

Last night, the Department for Work and Pensions stressed that 70% of people who claimed backdated benefits did so for three months or less. Yet official figures show that around 110,000 pensioners claim arrears for more than three months while 70,000 make backdated claims for the whole year. The average backdated claim in 2006/07 was £700, but some could claim as much as £2000.

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