A recent report by Age Scotland has revealed that older people on low incomes missed out on £88 million in Council Tax Reduction support last year.
As council tax bills for this financial year land on doormats across Scotland, the charity estimates that hundreds of thousands of older people are missing out on vital support they are entitled to. With 150,000 pensioners living in poverty and tens of thousands more on the cusp, Age Scotland said this huge sum of unclaimed support would make a real difference to those most in need.
These figures have been revealed as the charity launches its new ‘Check in, Cash out’ social security awareness campaign.
Mags MacLaren, SNP Councillor Paisley Northwest, said: “Much more needs to be done to boost older people’s understanding of the financial support available and to encourage them to claim Council Tax Reduction.”
“Age Scotland believes that Council Tax Reduction is one of the most widely underclaimed benefits and heavily linked to missing Pension Credit support. The figures, confirmed by the Scottish Government, show that the average annual award for Council Tax Reduction in 2019-20 to people over 65 in Scotland was £716.56.
“It is estimated that at least 123,000 older households in Scotland are not claiming the Pension Credit they are entitled to which would make them eligible for full Council Tax Reduction.”
Councillor Kenny MacLaren added: “Age Scotland’s helpline identified around £500,000 in unclaimed social security for older people last year but that is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. Every year hundreds of millions of pounds in vital financial support is missed by those who are unaware it exists, don’t know where to turn for help to claim, are locked out as they aren’t online, or feel stigma about needing this help.
“Social security is not just for older people on low income. If you have a disability or illness which means you need extra help, or care for someone, you could also be missing out.
“We would urge older people to call the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222 to find out if they are receiving all the social security support they are entitled to. Please don’t hesitate to check in, as you may well be entitled to cash out on additional financial support.”
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive, said: “This astonishing level of underclaimed Council Tax Reduction, among other sources of financial support such as Pension Credit, could be making a real difference to the lives of those older people on low incomes, driving down levels of poverty and boosting their wellbeing. We’ve got to make it easier for people to claim and ensure that accessing passported benefits is much more streamlined.”
The Age Scotland campaign aims to raise older people’s awareness and increase uptake of the financial support available to help them live well, and work to change the narrative about social security so it is treated in a more positive light, removing any stigma about accessing it. It will run all year round, urging people to call its 0800 12 44 222 helpline for an entitlement check and access their wide range of free information guides about social security.