BENEFITS EXPERT: Can I get Pension Credit under-65?

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Q. Can I get Pension Credit? I am 64 this month and receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of £216 a fortnight. I live alone in a one-bedroom Gentoo flat for which I pay £13.80 a fortnight for water and sewage charges.

A. It looks like it. To get Pension Credit you have to be above ‘working age’ and have an income below a certain level.

The age at which someone can qualify for Pension Credit is the same as the age when women reach State Pension age.

This used to be 60 but has been rising gradually since April 2010, to come into line with the age for 
men.

During the transition period the date when women reach State Pension age (and men and women reach Pension Credit qualifying age) depends upon their date of birth.

As you were born in May 1951 the date you reach Pension Credit qualifying age was in 2012, on either 6 May or 6 July, around the time you reached 61.

When someone on ESA reaches Pension Credit qualifying age they have a choice.

They can stay on ESA and have their benefit calculated according to more generous rules, or they can claim Pension Credit. Most people will finish up receiving exactly the same in benefit regardless of the choice they make.

I usually advise people facing this choice to claim Pension Credit, firstly because the rules about savings are more favourable and secondly because they no longer have to prove they are too ill to work with the hassle this may involve.

Pension Credit should bring the income of single people up to at least £151.20 a week.

Your ESA seems to be paid at the rate for someone of working age.

If this is all you have, you are not getting enough and I would advise you to claim Pension Credit immediately.

You should phone the Pension Credit Helpline on 0800 991234 to discuss your situation and have your claim taken.

It concerns me that you may well have missed out on past entitlements to more benefit.

If you are entitled to more now, you have presumably been entitled to it for some time in the past.

I would therefore advise you to ask the Department for Work and Pensions why your benefit had not been increased.

ESA has become a complicated benefit that can depend upon National Insurance, income, savings, family circumstances, state of health and age.

Those who do not understand the rules can lose out, so let me have more details and I will advise you what points to cover when you contact them.