Chapter two of Wise Guide 1: Advice for later life - Support and entitlements for over-65s
Help on the home front
Like to cut your bills and make running your home easier? In this chapter, we share our insider knowledge on everything from help to pay your mortgage, to help to pay for your pet’s operation.
Help to pay your mortgage
The Pension Service on 0845 60 60 265 may be able to help if you are a homeowner with mortgage interest, ground rent, service charges and interest on home maintenance loans. Ask them to check if you qualify for Guarantee Pension Credit and to send you a housing costs claim form.
Have you considered renegotiating your mortgage terms through an independent financial advisor (IFA) or mortgage broker? Find a FSA-approved advisor in your area.
If you are in mortgage arrears, see chapter 7 for help.
Did you know… more than half the homeowners retiring in 2011 still owed money on their mortgage.
Help if you can't pay your rent and service charges
First contact Citizens Advice to ensure your rent and the service charges are fair. You may qualify for Housing Benefit. The housing benefit department of your local council can help with your housing costs including service charges - but they take your savings and income into account.
If you receive any housing benefit, even a small amount, and you are finding it difficult to meet the cost of your rent, you could apply to your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.If you are in rent arrears, see chapter 7.
Should you release money tied up in your home?
Considering equity release? There are usually better ways of raising money, including a bank loan. The charity FirstStop (0800 377 70 70, firststopcareadvice.org.uk) can give you free, impartial advice on this. Don't do anything without getting advice from your solicitor, an independent financial adviser (IFA) or Citizens Advice.
Eight ways to pay less Council Tax
The rules and criteria for Council Tax Support may vary depending on where you live, but it's worth finding out about the following:
1. If you're on Guarantee Pension Credit (see chapter 1) you are likely to get full Council Tax Support.
2. You should pay less if your savings/capital are under £16,000 and you get Savings Credit or if you're on a low income. It depends what your circumstances are and how high your bill is. You may also get more money off if you’re on a carer’s or disability benefit.
3. Ask for the disability reduction if your home has an extra bathroom, kitchen, room or space to use a wheelchair indoors - because someone living in the house is disabled.
4. Claim a discount called second adult rebate if you share your home with someone on a low income who is not jointly liable with you to pay the Council Tax and who does not pay rent to you. Savings don’t matter but the amount of the second adult’s income will affect the amount of discount you get.
You may be able to claim a Council Tax discount if
5.…you live alone (and you can claim arrears due to you).
6.…your home is empty (eg because you've moved in with a relative), although some Councils have restricted this discount).
7…the person living with you is a carer who isn't your partner and cares for you for more than 35 hours a week.
8…you or someone in the house has a severe mental impairment including dementia and receives Attendance Allowance, the middle/higher rate of the Disability Living Allowance care component or the daily living component of the Personal Independence Payment.
Read our factsheet: Council Tax Support and Housing Benefit for more information (0800 319 6789, or order online).
Can't claim any discount and struggling to pay? Ask your local Citizens Advice to check you're in the right band. Or ask your council for advice. In Northern Ireland, contact the rebate section of your rates collection agency.
Did you know…half the pensioners eligible for Council Tax Support don't claim.
“It’s up to you to ask for money off. The council can’t be expected to know your son’s moved out so you’re now living on your own.”
Keeping warm - grants, money and special tarrifs
For information about grants and deals for older people, including free insulation and money for heating improvements, contact the Energy Saving Trust on (0300 123 1234, energysavingtrust.org.uk). Other sources of advice are: your council, Citizens Advice, the Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99, homeheathelpline.org.uk), the charity, Shelter's free housing advice helpline (0808 800 4444, shelter.org.uk), and if you live in housing association or council housing, your housing officer.
Extra money in winter
If you have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, whatever your income, you are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment. (The qualifying age for Pension Credit is increasing slowly as women’s pension age goes up to 65, the same as for men). If you already get state pension or other benefits you should receive the money automatically before Christmas. If you are not getting your state pension or any other benefits you will need to contact the Winter Fuel helpline on 0845 915 15 15 to claim your first payment.
An extra £25 when it's unusually cold
If you're on an income-related benefit such as Pension Credit, you'll automatically receive Cold Weather Payments worth £25 per week when the temperature falls below 0°C for seven consecutive days.
If you are in receipt of Pension Credit, you could also qualify for a scheme which provides free boiler repairs and installation of central heating. Contact the Energy Saving Trust (0300 123 1234, energysavingtrust.org.uk) or call Dionne at Free Bolier Grants on 0191 265 9070 (freeboliergrants.org).
And if your heating or water bills are unusually high…
If you get Pension Guarantee Credit you may qualify for a Warm Home Discount, from your energy supplier. This is a discount of around £140 on your electricity bill (this amount may change in Winter 2015/16). Call the number on your bill to find out if your supplier is participating in the scheme. If you are disabled or exceptionally vulnerable, you can ask your gas or electricity supplier to put you on the Priority Service Register. This is a list of people who may need extra care and attention if their gas or electricity were cut off.
If you are in arrears with your heating, water, electricity or gas bills, see chapter 6 for help for help.
You may be able to save money on your water bills by switching to a water meter. This means you only pay for the water you use, rather than paying a set price per year which is based on how big your home is. Switching won’t be cheaper for everyone, but is worth looking into if you don’t use that much water. The Money Advice Service can give you more information about this, and on the steps you could take to switch gas and electricity suppliers to cut your bills (0300 500 5000, moneyadviceservice.org.uk).
Did you know...our Winter Wise factsheet has lots of tips for preparing for and getting through a cold snap (0800 319 6789, or order online).
Help with small household repairs
Need to replace a washer or change a light bulb? If you live in a housing association property, there may be a handy person. If not, the British Legion - for ex-service people and their families only (0800 802 8080, britishlegion.org.uk/can-we-help) and some Age UK branches offer a handy person service to fit better locks, change smoke alarm batteries or do light gardening. Some council social services or housing departments also run a handy person service. If they can’t help directly, both Age UK and your council may keep a list of reliable traders and home improvement agencies.
Please note, while Age UK may give you details of a provider, the provider may subcontract to a non-approved provider to carry out the work.
“Don’t buy from people who just turn up at the door. A cowboy roofer took me to the cleaners.”
See our factsheet: Housing – paying for the maintenance of your home for more information (0800 319 6789, or order online).
Grants for larger home improvements
Your council can advise on grants and loans, help you apply, and give advice to ensure work is of a good standard. An organisation called Foundations can put you in touch with local home improvement agencies (HIAs) which exist to help older people stay in their own homes. If you need a stairlift or walk-in shower, you may be eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant. A council occupational therapist assesses your needs before the grant is approved and depending on your savings and income, you may have to contribute to the cost. HIAs can also advise on general maintenance and repairs in the home and tell you what grants are available.
To find an HIA in England, contact Foundations (0845 864 5210, foundations.uk.com/hiasearch).
In Wales, call Care & Repair Cymru (029 20 674 830, careandrepair.org.uk).
In Scotland, Care & Repair Scotland (0141 221 9879, careandrepairscotland.co.uk).
In Northern Ireland, contact the Fold Housing Association (02890 428314, foldgroup.co.uk).
Our factsheet: Adapting your home to stay independent has more information about Disabled Facilities Grants (0800 319 6789, or order online).
“If you get Pension Credit, you may be able to apply for a budgeting loan to help pay for essential home improvements. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus to find out more, or visit gov.uk/budgeting-loans”
Dominic, Independent Age
“Check with your buildings insurance company BEFORE having work done.”
Pay less for telephone, insurance and pets
“If you’re a low telephone user, it can be cheaper to buy mobile, landline and broadband all from one provider. Age UK can help you compare telephone packages.”
Jane, Independent Age
organisation can help:
“Insurance policies marketed at over-50s aren’t necessarily cheaper. We use an insurance broker. The market is very competitive and if you find a cheaper quote, your broker or existing insurer will usually match it.”
Ted, 80, Salford
Looking after every member of the family
If you are on benefits or a low income and can't afford your dog or cat's treatment, these organisations can help:
- PDSA (0800 731 2502, pdsa.org.uk). Ask about the PDSA's PetAid Request Service.
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