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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 58 March 2015

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Unclaimed benefits

Each year up to £5.5bn of Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit goes unclaimed by older people.   This is despite 1.6m people in later life living in poverty.

Age UK's research suggests that as many as 72% of older people who have claimed benefits say it’s improved their lives. Imagine what a bit more money could mean for you. It could help with shopping, paying the bills or being able to get out and about.

What we're not claiming:

Find out if you can claim more benefits

Start by finding out if you can claim these common benefits:

Get advice from Age UK:

If you would like advice or help making a claim, call Age UK Advice free of charge on
0800 169 65 65 or visit your nearest Age UK to talk to a friendly adviser.


Help with winter heating costs:
With fuel costs rising, many of us worry about paying our energy bills, so make sure you’re not missing out on any benefits or discounts you’re entitled to.
We've got some simple changes that can help you save money without sacrificing any warmth:

  • Keep your radiators and heaters clear of furniture, run the washing machine at a lower temperature and unplug chargers when they’re not in use.
  • Draw your curtains in the evening to minimise heat loss through windows. Tuck long curtains behind radiators to prevent heat from getting trapped.
  • Defrost your freezer every six months to ensure it runs efficiently.
  • Consider switching energy supplier. There are lots of energy companies and tariffs to choose from. Watch out for extra charges, and check how long special offers or discounts run for to get the best price. Our free factsheet Switching energy supplier has useful information.       
  • Claim all the benefits you’re entitled to. As well as a Winter Fuel Payment, you may also be entitled to a Cold Weather Payment, and the Warm Home Discount on your electricity bill if you receive Pension Credit. Use our online benefits calculator to find out what you are eligible for.

Difficulty paying your energy bills?

Tell your energy supplier as soon as you can, so they can help you work out a repayment plan.
Points of Note:

  • You can still claim benefits even if you have a state pension.
  • More people who apply for benefits are successful, rather than getting turned down.
  • You are still available for benefits even though you have savings.
  • You can still claim benefits if you own your own home. Pension Credit contains help towards mortgages payments and service charges for home owners. It’s always worth claiming even a small amount, as this may lead to qualifying for further benefits.
  • If you have a disability that means you needing extra help with looking after yourself then you could be eligible for up to an extra £54.45p per week (or one of the lower rates).
  • While some benefits stop at 70 years of age, and are age dependant, others such as Council Tax or Housing Benefit continues for as long as you are eligible.

The above information (points to note) came from an online questions and answers quiz on the age UK website. You can also go online at Age UK website and download information leaflets that go into further details on many topics concerning pensioners.
For those of you who do not have (or wish to have) accesses to the internet contact details are as follows: (My first call would be Age Scotland to get help with my query, or directions to where I could get assistance).’

Age Scotland:  0800 4 70 80 90
Causewayside House, 160 Causewayside, Edinburgh. EH9 1PR

Age UK: Nearest contact – Glasgow -   0141 204 0811
37 Glassford Street,  Glasgow, G1 1UG

How to prevent accidents during icy conditions

It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – everyone is at risk of slipping over in icy conditions.
In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) says there were 7,031 admissions to hospital in 2012/13 as a result of people of all ages falling over on snow or ice.
But while young people can break bones taking a tumble, the effects can be life-changing or even fatal for the elderly.

‘A third of over-65s fall every year’
It's estimated that around a third of people over 65 will fall in a year, rising to approximately half of all those aged 80 and over – falls which not only destroy their confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, but can also have more serious consequences.
One very common result of falls in the elderly is a fractured hip, and sadly the NHS estimates up to one in three people die within 12 months of such an injury, often because of other conditions that set in after the initial fracture.

Fear and isolation:
Age UK says falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for more than four million hospital bed days each year in England alone, and the charity estimates that the fear of falling again means one in ten older people who've fallen are afraid to leave their homes again.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says “the charity's research shows that over two million older people (19%) worry about not being able to get out as much over winter because of poor weather conditions and shorter, darker days.
“Falls are a serious threat to older people's health, wellbeing and independence, and winter can be a particularly challenging time because of slippery pavements.
“Yet despite having serious consequences, falls in later life are often dismissed as an inevitable part of growing older, when in reality they are preventable.”

They can be prevented:
This prevention begins with everyone reporting any unsafe conditions, says Rospa. They also advise older people to wear extra layers to protect more vulnerable parts of the body like the head, neck and spine in case they fall.
Special garments are also available to help the elderly protect their hips if they fall, and William Beckett, chief executive of Hip Impact Protection, which makes Fall-Safe hip protectors, says: “Icy conditions exponentially increase the number of falls older people have each year and with 8,000 people falling every day in the UK on average, the number of casualties that hospitals could see in the winter months is huge.
“Given the current inability for hospitals to manage A&E patients, families, care homes and residential homes need to take active measures to prevent falls causing serious injury this winter.”
** Top tips from Rospa for staying safe
on winter’s slippery surfaces  **

1. Wear sturdy footwear with a good grip – you can change into other shoes at your destination.
2. Use Nordic walking poles (or similar) if you have them
3. Take it slowly and allow yourself extra journey time – a last-minute dash to catch the bus could be a slippery disaster
4. Keep an eye on what's underfoot. Some places will remain icy for longer than others, e.g. places that don't get the sun
5. If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, or even neighbours who are new mums, offer to go to the shops for them
6. If councils have provided grit bins, use them – but don't remove vast quantities for your own use
7. Of course, as well as slips and trips on pavements and in public places, many people fall on their own footpaths and driveways. Take care in these places too – it may be worth buying some sand, salt or grit so you can scatter it on your drive etc if wintry conditions are forecast.

For more information and advice on preventing falls, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/falls
or call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565.  


www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland or www.ageuk.org.uk
(Apologies to Age Scotland for any mis-quotes in this information) 
Mae Stewart


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