Thousands of people who have deferred taking their state pension benefits may be missing out on hundreds of pounds' worth of support with the cost of their energy bills. Pension experts say that many people deferring their pensions do not realise they have to make a specific claim for this cash as a result of the deferral.
The winter fuel allowance, worth between £100 and £300 a year to most pensioners, depending on their age and circumstances, is automatically paid to everyone judged as qualifying in a set week of the year, typically during late September. Anyone receiving their state pension qualifies for the payment, which is paid during November or December.
However, increasing numbers of people have chosen to defer drawing their state pensions, or to suspend the benefit for a limited period. Where people have other income to fall back on, deferral can often make sense, because it qualifies them for a higher state pension when they do claim.
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Unfortunately, while such people are entitled to the winter fuel allowance the qualifying criteria include everyone eligible for state pension benefits, even if they're not claiming them they do not receive the money automatically. Instead, they are expected to claim the payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The DWP says that it advises people at the time they opt to defer their state pension that they will need to make a specific claim for the winter fuel allowance, but advisers believe significant numbers of people fail to do so. Claims cannot be backdated, so those who fail to claim in a particular year lose the money for good. See Gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment or call the DWP on 03459-151515.
David Prosser is a regular MoneyWeek columnist, writing on small business and entrepreneurship, as well as pensions and other forms of tax-efficient savings and investments. David has been a financial journalist for almost 30 years, specialising initially in personal finance, and then in broader business coverage. He has worked for national newspaper groups including The Financial Times, The Guardian and Observer, Express Newspapers and, most recently, The Independent, where he served for more than three years as business editor.
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