Pensioners are missing out on hundreds of pounds of benefits that they are entitled to. Half are failing to claim at least some of their money, while almost a quarter aren't claiming any at all. They are losing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds a year.
So what is stopping them?
Research from Just Retirement Solutions found that 23% of pensioners were failing to claim any benefit they were entitled to, losing an average of £655 income each year. The highest amount left unclaimed in the survey was one individual who could have boosted their income by £3,631 a year by claiming.
Meanwhile a third who were claiming some benefit were not receiving their full entitlement, with £213 a year on average lost. The highest amount unclaimed in the survey was £2,365 a year.
"Many pensioners are struggling to make ends meet due to insufficient pension income and depressed savings returns," said Stephen Lowe, Just Retirement's group external affairs and customer insight director. "At the same time they are missing out by failing to claim the benefits they should be receiving, often to the tune of hundreds of pounds each year that could make a real difference to their quality of lives."
He added that the company had been doing this research for the last three years and that the number who weren't claiming was going up.
The biggest gap was for Council Tax Benefit. This is claimed by 26% of people who replied to the survey - but it should have been claimed by 48%. Meanwhile savings pension credit was being claimed by 11% but should have been claimed by 19%.
The one benefit which seems to be commonly claimed is the guaranteed pensions credit – just 1% of those surveyed were failing to claim any entitlement and 4% were not claiming the full amount.
So why not claim?
It's not that they don't need the cash. The survey found that a large proportion of those who weren't claiming were living in an average-value property. These aren't people who can't be bothered to claim because they are too fabulously wealthy.
In many cases they don't know they are entitled to anything. The researchers said that many people felt the value of their property would rule them out of getting any help - but this isn't the case with many pensioner benefits.
In some instances, people find it all too confusing. "Part of the problem is what people perceive as the constant tinkering with the benefits rules that make it hard for people to keep up with the complexities," said Lowe.
In others, people just don't feel they should claim, because they have never claimed benefits before. However, it's fair to say that these people have put plenty into the system in order to protect the more vulnerable members of society - so that now they are more vulnerable they are entitled to claim.
Lowe says: "Each year these figures have highlighted the same message – pensioners shouldn't assume the financial support isn't available, make sure you check so you know for sure."
If it's a daunting prospect you can seek help from an adviser or an expert at any of the charities - such as Citizens Advice Bureau or StepChange - who know the system backwards and can guide you though it.
Download this handy booklet on 10 tips to improving you pension
But what do you think? Would you claim every penny? is there ever a good reason to miss out on hundreds of pounds in pensioner benefits? Let us know in the comments.
- 1. Retailer refunds
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".</span></p>
- 2. Receipts
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.</span></p>
- 3. Refund timeframes
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.</span></p>
After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.</p>
- 4. Credit card refunds
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).</span></p>
Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.</p>
- 5. Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) compensation
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.</span></p>
If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.</span></p>
- 5. Contact for correction
<p>Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.</p>
<p>Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.</p>
<p>You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.</p>
- 6. Bailiffs
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.</span></p>
They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.</p>
What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.</p>
You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.</p>
- 7. Debt collectors
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.</span></p>
They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.</span></p>
- 9. Online/phone purchases
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.</span></p>
You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.</span></p>
- 10. Cooling off periods
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.</span></p>
In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.</p>
Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.</p>