STATE pension, free NHS prescription and free bus pass age are on all on the verge of aligning in England which will impact millions of retirees, sparking concern for pensioners who greatly appreciate these state perks.
Pensioners value state “freebies” over certain benefits according to new research from Just Group. This includes free bus passes, free NHS prescriptions, the Winter Fuel Payments and free TV Licences.
Over 65s in the UK know far more about ‘freebie’ benefits than other Government support measures, according to the latest Just Group State Benefits Index. Free bus passes rank highest for retirees with 99 percent of over 65s aware of the perk, followed by free prescriptions (98 percent), Winter Fuel Payments (98 percent) and free TV Licences (95 percent).
This may prove to be difficult for the Government to manage over the coming years as eligibility changes. Proposed increases to the qualifying age have been negatively received by pensioners.
Currently, NHS prescriptions are free for those aged 60 and over but the Government is consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for prescription charges with the state pension age in England. This would force millions of retirees to only get free prescriptions from the age of 66, or later on in life when the state pension age rises further. Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, described the move as a “kick in the teeth” for pensioners.
Free bus passes can only be claimed from the state pension age in England. However, the state pension age itself will be rising over the coming years, increasing the wait times for the nationwide pass.
The Government will be increasing the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Beyond this, it will rise to 68 by 2046.
Despite being so well known and prioritised by over 65s, these “freebie” benefits are only worth between £2.08 and £18.03 per week each, Just Group noted. In contrast, one in five (19 percent) did not know about Pension Credit – the main benefit created for pensioners who are struggling on low incomes – even though the benefit is worth more than £59 a week on average and tops up weekly income to £177.10.
Additionally, 10 percent said they did not know about Housing Benefit which provides help with rent payments.
These could be costly oversights for millions of. “Brinkwire Summary News”.