More than two in five low-income over-65s in Burnley are missing out on their Pension Credits, new analysis by anti-poverty charity Turn2Us shows, with the group claiming pensioners were falling foul of "digital exclusion".
Calling on the Government to make the benefit more accessible to people with low computer literacy, Turn2Us estimates 2,429 people in Burnley were not claiming Pension Credit, a means-tested benefit for low-income pensioners, in February this year despite being entitled to it. This amounts to 42% of eligible claimants in the area.
Pension Credit tops up the income of over-65s to a minimum level of £167.25 per week for single people and £255.25 for couples, with an estimated £5.5 million going unclaimed in Burnley over just one year.
"Pension Credit is not a luxury, it makes a significant difference in weekly income," said David Samson, welfare benefits specialist at the charity. "We work with people every day who are struggling financially, and we know that older people are often the least equipped to get the right support at the right time.
"We believe that a lack of information, along with digital exclusion amongst this age group, is a major reason for the lack of claiming," David added, with the charity providing advice and support to over 90,000 over-65s last year - a 61% increase on the year before.
Charity Age UK raised concerns that the current application system is forcing older people to "jump through hoops to get the money that is due to them," with director Caroline Abrahams saying: "Successive governments have not tried terribly hard to increase take-up of Pension Credit. The treasury pockets billions that ought to be supporting older people on low incomes to live decently.
"At the very least the application process needs to be made easier, and more needs to be done to raise awareness that Pension Credit exists," Caroline added. "However, ideally older people would not have to ask for extra money to bring up their incomes to a decent level at all. It would either come to them automatically, or their State Pension would provide them with an adequate amount in the first place."
Across Britain, more than 1.3 million low-income pensioners are not claiming the benefits they are entitled to, with the DWP saying it encourages people to check if they qualify for Pension Credit and distributes information via leaflets and Jobcentre staff, as well as online.
A spokesperson said: "Pension Credit is an important protection for some of the most vulnerable people, and we want everyone to claim what they are entitled to. Anyone who claims their State Pension receives a letter encouraging them to call us to discuss their Pension Credit entitlement."