Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.
March’s theme is “Disability Benefits” and aims to give a brief overview of the main disability benefits available to older people in Scotland. In this blog, Heather Smith, Age Scotland’s Information and Advice Manager, explains why this time of year is a good time to check your benefit entitlement.
For benefits advisers, Easter isn’t just the time to eat chocolate, it’s also time to look at changes to benefit rates and encourage people to check their entitlements, as benefit rates change a little in the new financial year. Many older people do not claim the benefits they are entitled to, perhaps because of pride, or the negative stereotypes of “benefit claimants” in some media or because they have not understood the intricacies of rules and regulations. Some media outlets also try to stir up disputes between generations by saying that older people are “well off” – some older people are, but others have had difficult lives where the idea of saving for the future had to take second place to day-to-day budgeting to pay everyday bills and expenses.
The main benefits for older people are State Retirement Pension, Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance.
There is still some confusion about State Pension Age. This used to be 60 for a woman and 65 for a man, but the age for women is increasing fast and is now 62 ½, which can be a shock to a woman who in the context of a busy life has not kept an eye on welfare reform changes. The main change at 60 is now the “entitlement card” for concessionary travel, which in Scotland is not tied to the changes in State Pension Age. There will be changes to State Pension in April 2016 when the rate will become “single tier” and number of qualifying years will change – this doesn’t affect anyone who is already getting their state pension.
The age for anyone claiming Pension Credit is pinned to the increases in State Pension Age for a woman, so many people may be unsure about when they can claim. Our helpline Silver Line Scotland can track down the relevant date for you and help you to have a look at whether your income, capital and other circumstances mean that you are eligible to make a claim. Call them for free on 0800 4 70 80 90.
Attendance Allowance is the benefit for people who are 65 or over who need help with care or supervision. Many older people who could be entitled do not make a claim because they want to feel independent or they are just getting by without help. Others who do claim may not explain their needs effectively. They may have made gradual adjustments to their expectations as their health has deteriorated and their need for care has increased.
Attendance Allowance is based on the care you need, not the care you actually have. It can be claimed regardless of your income and capital, and you can spend it how you choose to. For those aged under 65, there is a different benefit called Personal Independence Payment.
From the calls we have had to our helpline, Age Scotland knows that many people like to have the facts about benefits clear in their own minds before talking to an adviser or making a claim for benefit. If you think or someone close to you may be entitled to make a claim, get in touch and a Silver Line Scotland Adviser can talk you through your right, on 0800 4 70 80 90.
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