More than 600,000 pensioners are missing out on a vital GBP140 discount on their heating bills during winter, campaigners warn. The Warm Home Discount gives low-income state pensioners and other benefit claimants a reduced payment each year. But Independent Age say 630,000 people in Britain potentially missed out because they are not receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.
Guarantee Credit tops up pensioners' weekly income if it's below GBP173.75 (for single people) or GBP265.20 (for couples), but the charity today says hundreds of thousands do not claim it. Pension Credit also acts as a gateway to a free TV licence, free NHS prescriptions and council tax support.
But Independent Age say take-up has not risen above 64% for around a decade. The charity claimed more than GBP88million in Warm Home Discounts for older people may have been missed out on last winter.
Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: "Sadly these Warm Home Discount figures are another example of how much people are missing out on life-changing entitlements because they are simply not aware of how Pension Credit can help them. "In the depths of a cold winter, a well heated home is vital to good health, especially when people are having to spend more time at home due to the pandemic. "We hear all too often from people in later life who have to choose between eating and heating their homes.
If more people were aware of Pension Credit, it has the potential to help them afford the basics in life again." A DWP spokesperson said: "We want to make sure that all older people receive the support they are entitled to and early last year we ran a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of Pension Credit, also dispelling some myths people might hold. "Having savings, a pension or owning a home are not necessarily barriers to receiving Pension Credit and we'd urge anyone who thinks they're eligible to apply as even a small award of Pension Credit can provide access to a wide range of other benefits."
Meanwhile, the government is also aware of delays in some people receiving the Warm Home Discount this winter. Government officials believe discount payments are delayed for customers of three small energy firms, two of which - Green Network Energy and Tonik - have ceased trading recently. Their payments will be honoured by EDF and Scottish Power respectively.
The number of payments delayed is not known and they only have to be paid by March 31. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is responsible for the Warm Home Discount, said: "Participating energy suppliers must pay their customers by the end of March 2021. However, they are encouraged to make payments as soon possible and most customers will receive their rebates earlier than this."
One Warm Home Discount recipient, David Smith, 65, from Bradford, told the Mirror: "We've had quite a bit of snow and I suffer from arthritis which causes me a lot of pain. "I've got to keep my heating on and it's costing me a fortune. "I'm scared to put my central hearing on.
I just have a gas fire on one bar - my kitchen is like a fridge."
- People can apply for Pension Credit by visiting gov.uk/pension-credit.
A claim can be made online or by calling the free claim line 0800 99 1234.