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Ed Foss, Senior writer
Thursday, May 5, 2011
A cynic might suggest it is a necessary part of the government’s balance sheet.
And in times of widespread economic woe, those folk in the treasury need all they can get in order to balance the books.
But the fact is that the level of unclaimed benefits in this country which should end up in the pockets of pensioners is at enormous proportions.
Lets not pretend this is anything new. Benefits have gone unclaimed among all ages for decades.
But the system is so complicated now that many people, especially those who have had a limited financial education, have no idea what they are entitled to.
And more often than not it is those most at need who are missing out.
A load of figures were put out this week by Just Retirement Solutions (JRS), who spoke to a number of their customers.
The most eye watering statistic was that the average amount of additional state benefit to which retirees may be entitled is £675 per year.
Now to salary earners that may not sound like a huge amount of cash. But to anyone used to counting their pennies, and the retirement community is certainly in that position in the main, it is a significant amount of money.
Without running into the figures too much, here are a couple more.
JRS also found that for those not claiming any benefits the additional amount identified was £788 per year.
And in a small number of cases the additional benefits could exceed £2,400.
Stephen Lowe, of JRS, said: ”Since the beginning of the recession, pensioners have been hit financially by higher taxes, spending cuts and inflationary pressures.
“Despite the fact that the budget was less severe than expected, financial pressures for people in retirement have not eased.
“Considering these factors, it is disturbing that pensioners are not taking the state benefits that they are entitled to.
“For the majority of people, obtaining advice from an organisation or a person with an understanding of state benefits is the best way to ensure pensioners are not missing out on these valuable benefits.”
There are various ways of finding this advice.
Perhaps the best start would be the Citizen Advice Bureau, checking on www.direct.gov.uk or visiting a financial adviser.
The latter of these obviously costs money, but it might be worth doing in the long run - and the free options are both sensible ways forward.
And for those in younger age groups, don’t think for a minute this same picture might not be replicated for you.
The range of benefits is enormous. Go on to the Directgov website and have a look - the benefits landing page has 10 sections and 40 sub sections taking in employment, low incomes, children, illness and injury, bereavement, disability, caring for another person and retirement.
You would need the equivalent of a degree to understand it all, so it is hardly a surprise when people fail to fully comprehend what it means for them.