Government called to increase uptake of pension credit

The UK Commission on Bereavement (UKCB) today launched its report, “Bereavement is Everyone’s Business‘, on how to better support bereaved people across the country. After uncovering “huge gaps” in the support currently offered across the ages, the UKCB has outlined how the Government can act to offer sufficient assistance to the bereaved – but additional funding and awareness are vital.

With soaring living costs compounded by increasing energy, food, and mortgage rates heavily impacting many people, the Commission’s report has made specific and important recommendations to prevent bereavement from becoming a trigger into financial hardship.

However, with older people more likely than other age groups to experience death, be it a husband, wife or life partner, this group are known to suffer more from a drop in household income.

While this drop in household income can, in some cases, be so significant it thrusts people into poverty, further research shows most older Britons in this situation don’t claim the support they need or are entitled to.

In view of this, the commission is calling on the Government to better help prevent the bereaved from falling into poverty by working to increase uptake on certain, additional support aids, such as Pension Credit.

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Pension Credit, which is a benefit that tops up the state pension for those on a low income, has the lowest take-up of all income-related benefits, according to charity Independent Age.

However, bereaved older adults may become more entitled to Pension Credit following the death of a partner due to their income drop, and it could make a substantial difference.

Research commissioned by Independent Age in 2020 estimated that if every eligible pensioner received the Pension Credit they were entitled to, it would lift roughly 400,000 of those out of poverty at the time the research was conducted.

On top of this, while emotional support has also been found to be lacking, the Commission is also calling for the Government to invest 79p per person, annually, to ensure appropriate emotional bereavement support is accessible.

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Research from Independent Age shows that nearly four in five people over the age of 65 are not given information about the emotional support available following a bereavement, and accessibility and availability of this support is a major barrier that the commissioners identified through their evidence collection.

Julia Neuberger, commissioner of the UK Commission on Bereavement and chair of Independent Age said: “It’s essential that the voices of older people are heard in all aspects of life but especially when it comes to bereavement.

“We know as we age, we are more likely to suffer a death.

“The UKCB heard evidence from thousands about their experience of bereavement and has been able to make some clear recommendations on how to improve the experience of bereavement for those in later life, and all other age groups too.

“Instead, we must increase both the emotional and financial support that is available to people of all ages, including those aged 65 and over so they know that help is there if they need it.

“Independent Age welcomes the Commission’s recommendations and calls on the government to implement them in full so that people are supported to move forward with their grief.”

The Commission, which was established by charities including Independent Age, Marie Curie and Cruse Bereavement Support, is calling on the Government to act on the report’s recommendations “without delay”.

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