This assistance is available to those who are able to claim Pension Credit from the Government department, a benefit payment reserved for those of state pension age. However, research suggests that many claims for this support have yet to be processed despite the urgency for pensioners to receive financial assistance during the cost of living crisis. Figures from the DWP, uncovered by a Freedom of Information (FoI) request carried out by AJ Bell, have revealed around 60,000 Pension Credit claims made between April and August in 2022 had yet to be processed as of October 26.
This comes as pensioners are being hit by a double whammy of soaring energy bills and rising inflation which could be mitigated with the extra support provided by the state pension benefit.
An estimated 111,550 Pension Credit claims were put forward to the Government department between April and August, according to the DWP.
Some 37,438 of these claims by pensioners were successful, while 15,580 claims appear to have been rejected.
As a result, 71 percent of claims for Pension Credit are successful while 58,532 of those made during the period appear to be backlogged.
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Tom Selby, the head of retirement policy at AJ Bell, warned more state pensioners are at risk of missing out on this £3,500 annual payment due to the economic crisis and pressures on the DWP.
Mr Selby said: “The combination of a cost of living crisis and a DWP awareness campaign appears to have dramatically increased the number of pension credit claims made by retirees on low incomes. However, a huge backlog risks undermining efforts to boost take-up of this valuable benefit.
“In response to an FOI request, the DWP itself acknowledges that there is ‘currently a backlog of pension credit claims that still require a decision to be made’.
“It would be criminal if a campaign designed to boost take-up of pension credit was successful, only for this success to be undermined because the Government had failed to build sufficient capacity to deal with this extra demand.”
The Government has made a conscious effort to promote the benefits of Pension Credit to the public in recent months, with charities such as Age UK also encouraging those on low income to apply.
However, Mr Selby is sounding the alarm that more needs to be done to highlight the effectiveness of the DWP benefit in improving peoples’ lives, as well as addressing the backlog of claims.
He added: “Even with the apparent jump in numbers of people claiming Pension Credit this year, there remains a huge shortfall, with the DWP estimating 850,000 eligible pensioners fail to make a claim, missing out on an estimated £1.7billion. That is around ten times the average number of successful Pension Credit applications made each year.
“The DWP itself says eligible pensioners not receiving pension credit could be missing out on £3,500 a year. This would be vital at any time, but particularly with many households facing huge rises in food and energy bills over the winter.”
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Who is eligible for Pension Credit?
Those of state pension age, which is currently 66, are entitled to this DWP benefit if they are on low income.
Older people eligible for Pension Credit could also receive support with housing costs, such as ground rent or service charges.
This is a separate payment to the state pension, which is available to everyone who reaches the official retirement age.
Pension Credit is accessible to anyone on low income, even if they have other savings, income or own their own home.
How much is Pension Credit?
As it stands, eligible state pensioners see their weekly income topped up to £182.60 if they’re single. If they have a partner, which includes spouses and civil partners, their joint weekly income is increased to £278.70.
Extra amounts could be awarded to people if they have extra responsibilities or costs to pay for, with unpaid carers able to claim an additional £38.85 a week. Pensioners with a severe disability could get an extra £69.40 weekly if they get certain disability payments from the DWP, including Attendance Allowance and the daily living component of PIP.
A DWP spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “We want to ensure pensioners receive all the support to which they are entitled and the success of our recent Pension Credit campaign is helping drive the volume of Pension Credit claims being submitted to an all-time high.
“Additional resources are being deployed to ensure we deal with the increase as quickly as possible, while successful claims and arrears will be paid accordingly to ensure those who are entitled do not miss out.”