United Kingdom

Take-up of benefits

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Around a third of all pensioner households entitled to Pension Credit are not claiming it (1.3 million households).
  • Two-fifths of all pensioner households entitled to Council Tax Benefit are not claiming it (1.7 million households).
  • Non-take-up for both Pension Credit and Council Tax Benefit has risen substantially over the last decade, up from 26% to 33% for Pension Credit and from 29% to 40% for Council Tax Benefit.  In both cases, these increases in non-take-up occurred in the period to 2003/04, with small decreases since then.
  • Problems with take-up of Housing Benefit are much less severe.
  • Of the estimated £4½ billion of unclaimed income-related benefits to which pensioners were entitled in 2008/09, Pension Credit accounted for half while Council Tax Benefit accounted for a third.
  • Take-up of the Pension Credit is much lower for owner-occupiers than for social and private renters: half of all the households in owner-occupation who are entitled to the Pension Credit do not claim it compared to ‘only’ a fifth for renters.  One of the reasons for this difference is likely to be that owner-occupiers are less likely to be in contact with their local authority than renters because Housing Benefit is not applicable to them.
  • The proportion of pensioner households entitled to, but not claiming, Pension Credit is somewhat higher for pensioner couples than for single pensioners.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

This indicator is the proportion of pensioner household who are entitled for means-tested state benefits who are not taking up these benefits’, covering the three major benefits of Income Support (the Minimum Income Guarantee), Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit.  Older people’s attitudes to claiming benefits are different from those of younger people and, for example, most of those not claiming the Council Tax Benefit to which they are entitled are pensioners. 1  Given that these benefits are specifically targeted at people with low income, any non-take-up is a cause for concern

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows, for a number of selected benefits, the estimated proportion of pensioner households entitled to the benefit who are not taking up their entitlement.

The benefits shown are the three major benefits of older people, namely Council Tax Benefit, Pension Credit (and its predecessors) and Housing Benefit.  In each case, the estimates are the averages for low end and high end estimates published by DWP.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the estimated amounts of money not being taken-up by the pensioner households.  Again, the estimates in each case are the averages for the low end and high end estimates published by DWP.

The third graph shows the estimated proportion of pensioner households in each housing tenure who are entitled to the Pension Credit but are not taking up their entitlement.  Note that the data groups households renting from registered social landlords with private renters rather then with those renting from local authorities.  Also note that data by tenure is not available for either Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.

The fourth group shows the estimated proportion of pensioner households of each family type who are entitled to the Pension Credit but are not taking up their entitlement.

The data source for all the graphs is the Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up series published by DWP.  The data relates to Great Britain.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data in the third and fourth graphs is the average for the latest three years.

Note that, in all the graphs, the figures shown are the mid-points of quite wide range estimates and the figures for any particular benefit in any particular year are subject to an uncertainty of around 4 percentage points.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The figures are estimates only, based on the modelling of data from surveys such as the Family Resources Survey.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Tackle poverty and promote greater independence and well-being in later life

Lead department

Department for Work and Pensions.

Official national targets

None.

Other indicators of progress

Employment rate age 50-69: percentage difference between this and overall employment rate.

Pensioner poverty.

Healthy life-expectancy at age 65.

Over 65s satisfied with home and neighbourhood.

Over 65s supported to live independently.

Previous 2004 targets

By 2008, be paying Pension Credit to at least 3.2 million pensioner households.  While maintaining a focus on the most disadvantaged by ensuring that at least 2.2 million of these households are in receipt of the Guarantee Credit.

Improve Housing Benefit administration by:

  • reducing the average time taken to process a Housing Benefit claim to no more than 48 days nationally, and across the bottom 15 per cent of local authorities to no more than 55 days, by March 2008;
  • increasing the number of cases in the deregulated private rented sector in receipt of Local Housing Allowance to 740,000 by 2008; and
  • increasing the number of cases in receipt of the Local Housing Allowance where the rent is paid directly to the claimant to 470,000 by 2008.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Pension Credit (and its predecessors) Council Tax Benefit Housing Benefit
1997/9827% 28% 9%
1998/9926% 29% 8%
1999/0029% 33% 11%
2000/0128% 35% 10%
2001/0233% 40% 14%
2002/0332% 41% 13%
2003/0438% 44% 15%
2004/0535% 45% 16%
2005/0636% 43% 14%
2006/0736% 42% 15%
2007/0835% 44% 16%
2008/0933% 40% 17%

Graph 2

Pension Credit £2,300M
Council Tax Benefit £1,300M
Housing Benefit £800M

Graph 3

Local authority renters 15%
Private and registered social landlord renters 24%
Owner-occupiers 48%

Graph 4

Single female pensioners31%
Single male pensioners31%
Pensioner couples43%
1. Of the estimated 1.8 million non-recipients of Council Tax Benefit in 2000/01, 1.3 million were pensioners.  The impact of Council Tax on older people’s incomes, Kenway P. and Pannell J., Help The Aged, 2003.