If you’re a pensioner in the UK, make sure you are getting all the help you’re entitled to this winter – especially since the government has announced additional cost of living payments due to be made later in 2023 and in 2024. 

The £900 cash boost will be paid over three instalments to more than 8m means-tested benefit claimants, such as those who receive pension credit, with the first due in the spring. Pensioners who receive Winter Fuel Payments will also receive £300 some time during winter 2023-24. 

Pension credit is worth £3,500 a year for pensioners on a low income; however, the government estimates £1.7bn has yet to be claimed by 850,000 families. If your application is successful, pension credit payments can be backdated for up to three months.

Here, Which? explains how pension credit works and the income-boosting benefits you might be entitled to.

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How does pension credit work?

Pension credit tops up the state pension for those on a low income.

It can be claimed for you and your partner, whether that’s your husband, wife, civil partner or someone you live with as though you are married/civil partners. If you have a partner, your collective income and capital are taken into account when your pension credit is calculated.

Pension credit is made up of two parts:

    In addition to topping up your income, pension credit may give you access to other perks such a free TV Licence (if you’re 74 or older), free NHS dental treatment, and help towards the cost of glasses – all of which could save you thousands of pounds a year.

    There is a pension credit calculator on the gov.uk website to help you check your eligibility for pension credit. The calculator also gives an estimate of the pension credit payment due, based on your earnings, benefits, pensions, savings and investments.

      How do I claim pension credit?

      There are two ways you can claim pension credit. You can either fill in and post the Pension Credit claim form to your local pension centre, or phone The Pension Service on 0800 99 1234.

      To claim, you will need your National Insurance number, information about your income, savings and investments and your bank account details.

      Pension credit can be backdated for up to three months as long as you have satisfied the entitlement conditions during that period. You’ll need to request backdating on the claim form as it’s not automatic.

      A pension credit claim can also be lodged up to four months in advance if you’re approaching the qualifying age or are about to become entitled for another reason.

      If you’re helping someone else check if they’re eligible, you can call the Pension Service on their behalf if they can’t do it themselves.

      9 pensioner perks and benefits to boost your income

      Even if you’re only entitled to a small amount of pension credit, it’s still worth claiming as it can help unlock heaps of other perks.

      We outline some of the ways you can get extra retirement income via pension credit below, as well as other discounts and freebies available to retirees.

      1. Housing Benefit

      If you get pension credit you may get your some or all of your rent paid in full by your local authority.

      When you claim pension credit, you might be asked if you want to make a claim for housing benefit at the same time. If not, you can contact your local council yourself and apply.

      There’s no set amount of housing benefit, and what you get will depend on whether you rent privately or from a council.

      If you own your home, you won’t be eligible for housing benefit, but you could get help paying your mortgage interest.

      2. Medical freebies and discounts

      Once you reach 60, you can get free NHS prescriptions in England (they’re free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), plus free eye tests (free for everyone in Scotland). You’ll only be entitled to free NHS dental treatment if you’re receiving the guarantee credit part of pension credit.

      If you get the guarantee credit part of pension credit, you can also claim help with travel costs to hospital. To do this, tell the hospital (or the place where you’re getting treatment) that you want to claim back the cost of your journey. They’ll tell you what you need to do – you may need to show proof you’re eligible to claim costs, such as your latest benefit letter. 

      Note that you get could a fine if you claim help with NHS costs when you’re not entitled to it. The government’s eligibility test can help you find out whether there are any NHS costs you can get help with.

      3. Carer perks

      If you’re a carer and receive carer’s allowance, you may get what’s known as the ‘carer addition’ included in your pension credit payments. This is worth up to £38.85 per week.

      To receive the carer addition, you need to spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone who needs regular and substantial care.

        4. Free TV Licence

        In August 2020, the BBC introduced a new scheme that offers some over-75s a free TV Licence.

        You can get a free TV Licence if you are 75 years or older and receive pension credit, or if your partner (living at the same address) receives pension credit.

        In June 2022, the government announced legislative changes that will make it easier and quicker for pensioners to get their TV Licence. Previously, pensioners had to obtain and share documentation with the BBC to prove they are in receipt of Pension Credit. 

        However, now the BBC will be able to verify automatically whether a person gets Pension Credit with the DWP, so pensioners can just apply online or over the phone without the need to supply extra paperwork. 

        The changes are due to come into effect next year. 

        5. Warm Home Discount

        If you get the guarantee credit element of pension credit, you’ll qualify for the Warm Home Discount.

        You could get £150 off your electricity bill for winter 2022-23 under the scheme.

        The qualifying date is usually in July, and if you’re eligible you should receive a discount the following winter.

        You should receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) between October 2022 and January 2023 telling you how to get the discount if you qualify.

        If you don’t receive a letter by mid January 2023, contact the Warm Home Discount helpline on 0800 731 0214.

        You’ll need to call the helpline before 28 February 2023.

        6. Cold Weather Payment

        The Cold Weather Payment scheme runs from 1 November 2022 to 31 March 2023 and gives £25 payments for each seven-day period of cold weather. 

        Cold weather is defined as the average temperature in your area being recorded as being 0°C or below. 

        You’ll be eligible for a cold weather payment if you claim any other income-related benefits, such as Pension Credit, Income Support or Universal Credit, and it will be paid automatically

        You cannot get Cold Weather Payments if you live in Scotland – but you might get the annual £50 Winter Heating Payment instead. You’ll get this payment regardless of weather conditions in your area.

        7. Winter fuel payment

        If you were born on or before 25 September 1956, you could get between £100 and £300 to help meet the cost of your heating bills. 

        You’ll need to have lived in the UK for at least one day during the qualifying week (19-25 September in 2022). 

        If you receive the state pension or certain other benefits, you’ll usually get the payment automatically between November and December. The government announced a £300 cost of living top-up for 2022.

        There will be another £300 payment, due some time in the winter – either towards the end of 2023 or early 2024.  

          8. Cheaper days out

          Whether or not you’re claiming pension credit, pensioners can get discounts on a range of leisure activities including:

            9. Travel discounts

            You can also save money on travel if you’re over a certain age, such as:

              Find out more: the perks and benefits of being retired

              Cost of living payments

              There are three different cost of living payments available. Depending on your circumstances, as a pensioner you may be eligible for one, two or all three, which are worth a combined £1,350. 

               If you are eligible, you will be paid automatically – you don’t need to apply. 

              Those on low income benefits, including pension credit – £900

                Disability payment

                  Pensioner payment

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                      This article was first published on 6 June 2021 and has been updated multiple times since. It was last updated on 5 January 2023.


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