Pensions

Age Scotland warns Highlands and Islands pensioners on Pension Credit deadline

Highlands and Islands pensioners could lose £11,000 if they miss out on a major deadline for Pension Credit, warns Age Scotland

Age Scotland has urged couples in the Highlands and Islands not to miss out on up to £11,000 before a major deadline for Pension Credit next week.

New rules mean that “mixed age couples”, where one partner is working age, will no longer be eligible for the benefit after August 13.

This means hundreds of poorest pensioners across the Highlands and Islands could miss out on much-needed extra income. Four in 10 of those entitled to it have not applied, often because they find the process confusing or feel too proud to claim it.

They also miss out on associated benefits, which will include a free TV licence from next year if one partner is aged 75 and older.

An estimated 6842 households in the Highlands and Islands do not claim Pension Credit, losing £17.6 million per year (according to Independent Age).

Age Scotland’s Director of Charity Services, Michelle Supple said that they believe this change is deeply unfair and will hit the poorest pensioners hardest. Older people who are already struggling to get by could miss out on thousands of pounds, simply because their partner is younger. Adding insult to injury, if one partner is aged 75 or over, this means they will not be eligible for a free TV licence from next year.

Supple said it’s shocking that four in 10 pensioners in the Highlands and Islands are already missing out on this extra support, either because they’re not aware of it, find the process confusing, or are too proud to claim it. Now many of them will have to get their claim in by the August 13 deadline or lose the money completely.

They have worked hard and contributed all their lives, and shouldn’t have to spend their later years worrying about how to pay the next bill. They would urge everyone who thinks they might be eligible to call the Helpline advisers as soon as possible for a free benefits check, she said.

The Scottish Government estimates that 3800 couples across Scotland will be affected by the “age gap tax” over the next four years. However couples who claim before the deadline will continue to receive the benefit, unless their circumstances change.

Age Scotland’s figures show that an average couple in the Highlands could receive an estimated £10,955 in Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and other associated benefits if they apply before the deadline.

However if they miss out, they would have to apply for Universal Credit instead. Even if they are eligible, this could leave them almost £7000 a year worse off.

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