The Complete Guide to Pension-Age Benefits and Grants

By Claire Mitchell – Updated July 2022. Posted to the blog.

Pension-age benefits infographic

Claire Mitchell

My name is Claire Mitchell and my mission in this guide is to help pensioners and older persons make sense of the myriad of benefits, grants and financial assistance that’s available in the UK.

With the cost of living crisis in 2022, I believe this mission is all the more important.

Did you know that:

  • £2.2 billion a year of pension funds and housing credit goes unclaimed by pension-age citizens?
  • 1 in 7 pensioner households who are entitled to housing credit do not claim it?
  • £20 billion of private pension pots are not claimed?
  • That 36% of home improvement/repair companies offered a discount to pensioners, despite only ~1% advertising this offer?

For the past few years, my partner and I have created and updated this website; we research the prices charged by home improvement/repair companies and publish a yearly update.

Our goal has always been to help consumers save money – by sharing our data for free.

We also explore the grants and other financial assistance that are available to pensioners and other groups.

Who is this guide for?

The guide below was updated in 2022 and covers all aspects of pension-age grants, benefits, financial assistance and more, with links to the official resource.

The resources below are age-specific and while some are for those on low incomes, many are available regardless of financial status.

1) The Basic State Pension

We start with the most obvious UK benefit, the state pension.

You can claim the Basic State Pension of up to £137.60 per week if you:

  • Are male and were born before 6th April 1951
  • A woman and were born before 6th April 1953.
  • Have paid or have been credited National Insurance contributions (usually for 30 years).

If you don’t qualify for the full basic state pension, you can:

2) The New State Pension

You’ll qualify for at least some of the New State Pension of £179.60 per week if you:

  • Are born on or after 6th April 1951 (male) or 6th April 1953 (female).
  • Have at least 10 years of National Insurance contributions to get at least some pension.
  • Have 35 years of NI contributions to get the full amount.
  • If you started work before April 2016 but will retire after April 2016, you should contact the Pension Service and ask how many years NI contributions you need to qualify for the full New State Pension but it will be no more than 35 years.

If you don’t qualify for the full New State Pension, you can:

3) Trace Old Pensions

According to the Association of British Insurers, there is nearly £20 billion in unclaimed pensions from around 1.6 million pension pots.

Insurers and pension providers are trying to contact policyholders by sending letters to their last known address but as people move home on average 8 times in their lifetime, not everyone is traceable.

If you’ve ever worked for a company or institution, there’s a chance that they may have put aside funds in a pension pot and it could have grown significantly over the years.

Start by filling out this form on the government website and see if you can trace a lost pension.

4) Pension Credit

Pension Credit is separate from the State Pension and is a top-up payment for those on low incomes if:

  • You and your partner have both reached the state pension age.
  • One of you is getting Housing Benefit for people over state pension age.

The purpose of Pension Credit is to top-up your income to a minimum level and it takes into account your pension (if any) and other incomes. Income from disability payments, PIP, child benefits, attendance allowance and several other sources of income is not taken into account when calculating your income.

“Guarantee Credit” is another topup that is offered to those with extra responsibilities and costs.

You can check your Pension Credit eligibility here.

5) Get Help With Mortgage Interest Payments

For those who are struggling to pay their mortgage repayments, consider this little known scheme from the government called SMI (support for Mortgage Interest).

The UK government will pay some or all of the mortgage interest for you in the form of a loan which is repayable when the house is sold.

Interest accrues on the loan at a favourable rate but the payments are only available to those who aren’t employed and receive one of five benefits.

Consider SMI if you’re on a low income and are struggling to pay a mortgage, it’s also available to retired persons.

Check SMI eligibility here.

6) Housing Benefit

While most benefits have now moved over to “Universal Credit”, pensioners as of 2022 can still make a claim provided that:

  • You are single and eligible for a pension.
  • You are part of a couple and both of you are of pension age.
  • Are in rented or supported living.
  • Your income, including your pension and your savings of over £6000, will be evaluated.

Check to see if you’re eligible for Housing Benefit here.

7) Council Tax Support

Council tax reductions vary from council to council but those on a low income and with savings of less than £16,000 may be able to reduce or even entirely eliminate their council tax bill.

This page from AgeUK provides an overview of the reduction but as each council’s policy varies, you’ll need to check with your local council.

As a general rule of thumb, pensioners who qualify for the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit may get a significant reduction in their council tax.

8) Free Prescriptions on the NHS. Free Eye Tests & Free Dental Care

Those aged 60 or over are eligible for free prescriptions.

Those under 60 can claim free prescriptions if their partner is of pension age and qualifies for Pension Guarantee Credit.

This page contains more information about who can claim free NHS prescriptions.

Those over the age of 60 can also get free eye tests and those who qualify for Pension Guarantee Credit can receive discount vouchers to help with the cost of glasses or lenses.

More details about free eye tests and vouchers can be found here.

The NHS provides discounted essential dental treatment which is placed into one of three pricing categories.

Pensioners who qualify for Pension Guaranteed Credit may qualify for free essential dental care.

More details about who qualifies for free dental care can be found here.

9) Attendance Allowance

This benefit is paid to those that are of pension age or older and are physically or mentally disabled.

There are two different rates and as of 2022, you’ll either get £60 or £89.60.

This benefit is not means-tested so your savings or income are not taken into account but is only available to those of pension age who receive frequent help or supervision.

Explore the eligibility for attendance allowance here.

Somewhat strangely, this benefit is paid out even if you don’t have a live-in carer helping you. That’s covered by another benefit called Carer’s Allowance.

10) Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit of £67.60 per week paid to those who care for someone 35 hours per week or more.

You don’t need to live with or be related to the person you care for but they must be in receipt of certain benefits for you to claim.

More details about the Carer’s Allowance can be found here.

Carer’s Credit is a national insurance credit applied to those who care for someone who receives a benefit at least 10 hours per week.

It’s used to fill gaps in National Insurance so the carer can maximise their pension when they retire.

Read more about Carer’s Credit here.

11) The Winter Home Discount Scheme

This scheme offered a discount of £140 off your electricity bill from October 2021 to March 2022.

This benefit is available to those with a low income or pensioners who receive the “guaranteed credit” element of Pension Credit.

Scheme details for 2021/22 can be found here, and this page will be updated if the scheme is extended next winter.

12) Winter Fuel Payment

This is a benefit of between £100 and £300 and is usually paid automatically to eligible persons in November or December.

To qualify, one must be of pension age and must live in the UK.

If you live outside the UK you may still qualify, depending on which country you now reside in and if the country has a warmer or cooler climate than the UK.

If you move abroad or defer your pension, you should contact the Winter Fuel Payments Centre and double-check that you will still be paid.

Everything you need to know about the Winter Fuel Payments can be found here.

13) Cold Weather Payment

This benefit consists of a £25 payment for every 7 day period of cold weather between the 1st of November and the 31st of March.

“Cold weather” means 7 consecutive days of temperatures below zero degrees.

The Cold Weather Payment is available to those who receive certain benefits, including Pension Credit and Support For Mortgage Interest.

See if you qualify for the Cold Weather Payment here.

14) Free and Discounted Travel Benefits

There are several travel benefits available to pensioners and the over 60’s:

a) Senior Rail Card offers 1/3 off advance and off-peak fares to the over 60’s and costs £30 per year or £70 for three years.

b) National Express Senior Coachcard guarantees that over 60’s will save 1/3rd off standard and fully flexible fares, even at peak times. The card costs £12.50 (+p&p).

c) The over 60’s Oyster Card offers Londoners over the age of 60 free weekday travel on buses, trains and the tube after 9 am and anytime on weekends. The cost in 2022 is £20.

d) The Freedom Pass is similar to the over 60’s Oyster Card but applies to those over pension age (for women) and can also be used on local buses in England after 930am and before 11 am on weekdays and all weekend.

e) Free bus passes for older persons are available at pension age (England) and at age 60 (Wales & Scotland).

f) The Blue Badge is for people with a disability or health condition and allows them to park closer to their destination. It’s free in Wales, £10 in England and £20 in Scotland.

15) Bereavement Support Payment

This benefit comprises an initial one-off payment and monthly payments for up to 18 months. You’ll qualify if your partner is under retirement age, lives in the UK and has paid NI contributions for at least 25 weeks in any one year since 1975. There are two payment levels and to receive the maximum amount, applicants must apply within 3 months of their partner’s death, a lower amount may be paid if there is a delay.

Find out more about Bereavement Support Payments.

16) Funeral Expenses Payment

You could get a payment to help with a funeral you’re arranging if you get certain benefits and are closely related to the deceased person. The amount given depends on your circumstances.

Discover more about the Funeral Expenses Payment.

17) Free TV Licence

From the 1st of August 2020, only households with a main resident over the age over 75 and who are in receipt of Pension Credit can receive a free TV licence and save £159 per year as of 2022.

Find out more about the free TV licence here.

18) Grants, Other Benefits and Interest-Free Emergency Loans

Grants don’t need to be paid back and are usually offered to those who cannot claim welfare benefits or who are struggling with a one-off bill or debt.

The best place to start is Turn2Us, you can use their tool to search for local councils and charities that offer emergency grants.

The Re-Use Network operates a series of stores that provide discounted or free recycled furniture and household items. Many of the outlets offer discounts to those on certain benefits.

Crisis Loans are no longer offered by the government but have been replaced with Budgeting Loans which can be used for:

  • furniture or household items (for example, washing machines or other ‘white goods’)
  • clothes or footwear
  • rent in advance
  • costs linked to moving house
  • maintenance, improvements or security for your home
  • travelling costs within the UK
  • costs linked to getting a new job
  • maternity costs
  • funeral costs
  • repaying hire purchase loans
  • repaying loans taken for the above items

To get a Budgeting Loan you must have been getting one or more of these benefits for the past 6 months:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

The budgeting loan is interest-free and is taken from your benefits and is usually paid back within 12 months.

Read more about budget loans here.

Some energy companies offer free or heavily discounted home insulation and energy-efficient boilers to customers on low incomes who receive certain benefits.

Larger energy companies are obliged to fund or partially fund efficiency improvements under the government’s ECO scheme.

More information about the ECO scheme can be found here but the latest iteration will most likely apply to pensioners who receive Pension Guarantee Credit.

19) Advance Payments

Pensioners who are experiencing hardship may be able to get an advance of their State Pension, Pension Credit or Carer’s Allowance. This is paid back through their benefits and is interest-free.

More information can be found here but you’ll need to contact the office of the benefit you receive.

20) Ask for a Discount

In 2022 we researched the prices home improvement and repair companies charge for hundreds of projects, from replacing a tap to installing new windows.

We also asked the companies we contacted if they offered discounts to pensioners.

36% of the firms that responded stated that they did offer a discount, this is despite less than 1% openly advertising the offer on their websites.

The discounts ranged from 5-20%

The key takeaway from this is: Always ask if there’s a discount for pensioners as the vast majority don’t explicitly state so.

More information about our research in 2022 can be found here.