Education And Debate

Caring for Older People: Money problems and financial help

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 03 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:288
  1. Charlie Teale, consultant physiciana
  1. aSeacroft Hospital, Leeds LS14 6UH

    Older people make up the largest low income group in the United Kingdom. This article gives an overview of financial help available for older people, including general information, such as pensions and low income benefits, and also particular support for those with disabilities, such as attendance allowance and assistance with residential or nursing home fees. Advice on an individual's entitlements is available from the Benefits Agency and, particularly for those with disabilities, from social workers.

    Financial security is one of the keys to being able to enjoy one's later years. Although older people with occupational pensions may be well provided for, those without may face financial hardship. There are over 10 million people of pensionable age in the United Kingdom (currently age 60 for women and 65 for men). Over 1.5 million people aged 60 years and over receive income support because of low income, in addition to which at least half a million who are eligible for this do not claim. This makes older people the largest low income group in the country (box). This article summarises benefits and financial support available for older people with details on how to find out about allowances and how to get them.

    Retirement pensions and widow's benefits

    People of pensionable age who have paid sufficient national insurance contributions are eligible for the basic pension; those with lesser contributions may receive a reduced pension. A married woman can claim a pension on her husband's contributions. Divorced people may be entitled to receive a pension, or increase their own pension, on the basis of their former spouse's contributions.

    Financial status of older people

    • 1 575 000 people aged 60 years and over receive income support (1991).

    • Basic state pension 20% (single) and 32% (couple) of average adult full time wage (1992-3).

    • Over half of pensioner households depend on the state pension for at least …

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