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Half of older people living on the breadline

Rising costs are leaving half of older people living on the breadline. Age UK launches new campaign to encourage older people to claim their benefits.

Rising living costs are causing significant hardship for pensioners with nearly half  saying they are just ‘getting by’, and one in ten admitting they are finding it difficult or really struggling, according to new research for Age UK.

Pensioners are hit particularly hard by climbing inflation rates because they spend a larger percentage of their budget on food and fuel, as shown in Age UK Enterprise's Silver RPI; over the last year the cost of food has shot up by 6.2 per cent and energy has increased by 4.2 per cent.

1.8 million pensioners living in poverty

1.8 million pensioners live in poverty, and many thousands more are struggling to make ends meet just above the breadline as indicated in this survey.

One in ten pensioners report having outstanding debts such as a mortgage, credit card or bank loan, with levels of debt being higher among younger pensioners.

And even more shockingly, our survey of over 1,200 over-60s also revealed that nearly one in five pensioners had cut back on their heating over the winter months in order to make ends meet. This is particularly worrying in the face of the extra 25,000 older people dying during the winter months in recent years.

Among poorer pensioners, one in five say they are going out less in order to save money, and over a third are buying cheaper or less food.

Millions of pounds of benefits unclaimed

Despite this, as much as £5.4 billion in pensioner benefits goes unclaimed each year:

  • Just under half of all pensioners are entitled to pension credit, but a third of people don’t claim it.
  • Up to 1.97 million pensioners are still missing out on council tax benefit worth £1.5 billion per year – if claimed this could boost their income by an average of £728 a year.

The reasons these benefits go unclaimed is because many people are unaware of the range of benefits available or don't realise they are eligible, think the claiming process is too complicated and intrusive, or simply feel too proud to make a claim.

But the vast majority of people surveyed who did claim said that pensioner benefits had improved their quality of life or helped them worry less about making ends meet.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s Charity Director, commented: 'At a time when so many people are struggling financially, it is unacceptable that vital benefits are failing to reach some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people in our society. This is money that could make a huge difference to people’s quality of life.'

More Money in Your Pocket

These results highlight the importance of Age UK’s nationwide ‘More Money in Your Pocket’ campaign - which kicks off today - encouraging people in later life to claim the benefits they are entitled to.

The campaign aims to get an extra £120 million into the pockets of 500,000 older people over the next year.

Age UK is calling on older people to get in touch with their local Age UK or Age Concern, or call Age UK Advice, the charity’s free national advice line, on freephone 0800 169 65 65.

Michelle Mitchell continued: 'The ‘More Money in Your Pocket’ campaign is working to break down the barriers that stop older people claiming benefits such as people not realising that they are entitled to the money or feeling reluctant to claim.

'Any older person who is worried about money should contact their local Age UK or Age Concern, or to call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 for free information and advice.'

Check what benefits you're entitled to

Age UK has launched an online benefits checker which is a quick and easy way to find out if you might be entitled to any benefits. It only takes five minutes and could result in some extra income:

Try our benefits checker

Age UK has also published the ‘More money in your pocket’ booklet which is a handy guide to claiming benefits for people over state pension age. To order the booklet, please call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65 or visit


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