The last year has been tough for a lot of people, particularly those living in poverty. All too often at Independent Age, we hear from people in later life who have to choose between eating and heating their homes.

That’s why we were pleased to see the annual increase of Pension Credit last week – a single person who is eligible for the entitlement will now receive up to £177.10 per week, and couples who are eligible will now receive up to £270.30.

We know this money is a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people, but we estimate that up to one million older people who could be eligible for Pension Credit are not receiving it.

Our analysis shows this could be affecting up to 130,000 households across the North West. This means there is more than £300million that isn’t reaching those who need it most.

Uptake of Pension Credit has not risen above 64% for around a decade – the worst uptake of any income-related benefit.

It acts as a gateway to a free TV licence for over 75s, free NHS prescriptions, council tax support, Housing Benefit, free eye tests and much more. Combined, this could be worth around £7,000 per year for an individual.

We welcome efforts by the government to ensure more people receive Pension Credit but they haven’t yet had the impact needed. We need the government to urgently produce an action plan to tackle low uptake in a more strategic and effective way. This should include a full communications strategy, including awareness raising campaigns, as well as new high-quality research into who is not claiming Pension Credit and why.

As well as making a huge difference to people’s lives, full uptake could also bring savings to the taxpayer. Research we recently commissioned suggests that full take-up could over time result in net savings as people’s health improves and they are less likely to need health or social care services.

By working together with the government to identify and overcome any barriers, we are confident we can increase uptake and ultimately, improve the lives of people in the North West in later life who are facing unnecessary financial struggles.

Deborah Alsina MBE,

Chief Executive of Independent Age