April is the cruellest month…

This morning is April 1st, but rather than fooling about, I’m going to be boning up for an appearance on Paul Lewis’ Moneybox tomorrow. I’ll be talking about Pension Credit, why we need more people to claim their entitlement and why we should aim to pay pension credit automatically in the future.

I feel a bit of a fraud as I’m riding on my friend Gareth Morgan’s coat tails, but it’s really important that we get the message on Pension Credit out  –  with fuel poverty an even greater reality for pensioners than for the nation at large, we need to make the most of the money the Government has put on the table. As Gareth says, even a 50p a week Pension Credit is valuable as it opens the door to so much else.

So in this cruel April, I’d like to thank this kind, gentle but determined man for all he does for those who need and are owed benefits.

Gareth Morgan

Up to 850,000 households are missing out on pension credit , among them households that can ill-afford to miss out on any financial assistance. This blog is about who can claim, how to claim and why we need to automate a claims system (though not overnight). 

There’s more to pension credit than a means-tested income top up to give those dependent on it, a full state pension. If you’re past state pension and you get less than £177 pw (£230 for a couple) in pension, then you are due  a top-up to the level of the state pension,

People who were born before April 2016 can also get a payment just for having savings – (it’s called savings credit) and it’s worth up to £14 per week. It’s based on your savings, not your property and it’s the backdoor to much more help from the state

  1. It’s unlikely you’ll have to pay Council Tax (unless other people live with you).
  2. You’ll get free NHS dental treatment, and you can claim help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital.
  3. You’ll get a Cold Weather Payment of £25 when the temperature is 0°C or below for 7 days in a row.
  4. If you rent your home, you may get your rent paid in full by Housing Benefit.
  5. If you own your home, you may be eligible for help with mortgage interest, ground rent and service charges.
  6. If you’re a carer, you may get an extra amount known as Carer Addition. This is worth up to £37.70 a week.
  7. If you’re over 75, you can get a free TV licence.

I’ve put an advert out on linked in with a hope that it will catch people’s interest at this tricky time for pensioners.

As I’m saying in the Daily Mail article, pension credit shouldn’t need to be promoted, it should be paid to people who qualify for it, automatically as a state pension top up whether they qualify by not having the minimum income or because they have saved for retirement.

Automation? Why I’m pressing for it…

You’d think that the DWP would know the answers to some of the questions they are asking you!

But DWP’s databases aren’t too modern and don’t talk to each other like we come to expect these days.

Anyone who has been through a pension credit application knows there are a lot of questions and that is because pensions credit is targeted to people who need it most. Actually most of the information you are asked for, you’ve been asked for many times before

But what seems obvious to us, isn’t obvious to a computer system designed in a different time. The DWP are really keen to change to automation, would you like the job of checking manually , every application? That’s what hundreds of DWP employees have to do every day. It would drive me nuts, but it just has to be that way , till the DWP get a way of linking to data held on you elsewhere. I know we have a Government Gateway, but it doesn’t open many gates (yet).

So it’s not going to be possible to automate pensions credit tomorrow. But with greater connectivity between banks (open banking), pensions (pension dashboard), tax (HMRC real time information) and DWP benefits, the hope is that more and more  of the 850,000 households missing out, will be found and paid automatically.

This would be a win for everyone but it isn’t going to happen overnight. The experts I’ve spoken say that we should set Government a 5 year target for automation (till April 2027).

In the meantime, even if we aren’t over state pension age (66) , we know people who are. My publican is more than happy to dish out advice on claiming pension credit, there’s info on it in my doctor’s surgery and Martin Lewis is always banging on about it. Infact I’m getting involved in jogging things along myself, hoping to put a feasibility study in place to get automation in place within five years


April is the cruellest month

For those who don’t know the poem, this is how TS Eliot started his poem – the Wasteland

April is the cruellest month,

breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

sometimes hibernation is easier.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to April is the cruellest month…

  1. Mark Meldon says:

    Thank you, Henry.

    Next up: the 95%+ of people who buy fixed annuities rather than those with fixed percentage increases or RPI linking. Sure, these decisions have to be individually contextualised, but I do worry about it. We know most people underestimate their life expectancy, but building in ‘guaranteed poverty’ in an inflationary environment is an example of the confusion between nominal and real returns (again).

  2. Ian Neale says:

    There is one fundamental eligibility condition which is often overlooked:
    both you AND your partner have to be over state pension age (unless one of you is getting housing benefit for people over SPA). https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/eligibility
    I know someone age 77 who would be eligible, but as his wife is only 58 he can’t apply.

Leave a Reply