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£4m of pension credit goes unclaimed in Sefton Central each year, says MP

MP Bill Esterson is urging constituents to check their eligibility for pension credit after research showed that a shocking £4m of the benefit was going unclaimed in Sefton Central each year.

Pension credit is a weekly top-up payment available to older people above the state pension age if their income is below a certain level.

The recent announcement by the BBC that free TV licences for over 75s would in future only be given to those receiving pension credit meant it was even more important for pensioners to check their eligibility, said the MP.

Mr Esterson also called on the government to do more to ensure that those who are eligible for the benefit, and other benefits that are linked to it, receive it.

The MP for Sefton Central and Shadow Business Minister, said: "I completely oppose the plans to take free TV licences away from over 75s and I have written to the government to ask that they provide the necessary funding to cover the cost of free TV licences, but even so it is important that those who can claim pension credit do so.

"Those who are eligible are people with some of the lowest incomes in the country and pension credit is there to help. The Government should be doing more to ensure that those who are eligible for this benefit receive it.

"I was shocked to learn that as much as £4m was going unclaimed in my constituency alone. It is really easy to check if you are eligible and I would urge all older people to do so."

The charity Independent Age says that £3.5bn of unclaimed pension credit is returned to the Treasury each year. It is thought that one third of those eligible do not claim, costing some households up to £2,500 per year.

Mr Esterson added: "This money should be reaching the most hard-pressed pensioners in my area, and it is money that would ultimately be spent in the local economy which is another reason why the government should be doing more to make sure it gets to those who need it.

"Pensioner poverty is on the rise in the UK and this simple measure of making people more aware of pension credit could have a huge impact. The proposed changes to free TV licences have made this issue even more pertinent.

"The current system is clearly not working. Some older people are having to choose between eating and heating, yet the money these pensioners should be getting each week through pension credit could cover the cost of both, making a big difference to their lives.

"The Government knows about this scandal but has failed to take the necessary action. Previous awareness raising initiatives run by the Government have failed to increase the number of people getting pension credit. On top of this, many of the poorest older pensioners now face losing their free TV licence at no fault of their own, despite being promised at the last General Election that this wouldn’t happen.

"In Great Britain today there are older people living in poverty unnecessarily. I have written to the DWP to ask what actions they will take to increase take-up of pension credit."

Pension credit is available to most pensioners if their income is under £167.25 per week for a person living alone and £255.25 per week for a couple. There is also a savings credit element available to those who have small amounts of additional income such as a works pension. To check your eligibilty for pension credit call 0800 99 1234.

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