Electronic income

Musselburgh retiree ‘flabbergasted’ by surge in earnings

A disabled pensioner in Musselburgh has been helped by the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to claim ‘significant amounts of new income’ as the cost of living crisis worsens.

Helen Simpson, 67, struggled to feed, heat and care for herself, saying this time last year her income was her state pension and benefits disability (PIP), which were “really not enough to live on”.

She explained: “Then last summer I had a toothache and the dentist told me the treatment would cost hundreds of pounds.

“Well, I just can’t afford it. And I was really shocked because I thought as a retiree I would get it for free.

“So I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Musselburgh and explained the situation. They asked me why I was not claiming the pension credit guarantee.

“I said I had never heard of it and didn’t even know what it was. They told me it was a weekly benefit and they thought I was eligible to claim it.

“The CAB advisor then helped me with the actual claim. I have to say the HMRC man was very nice and super efficient.

“He confirmed that I was entitled to this pension credit and that from now on I would receive £83 a week, in addition to my normal state pension. Not only that, but I could also claim it to be backdated by three months, which was a lump sum of over £900. It was in my bank account the same evening.

“Well, you can imagine, I was amazed. That kind of money is life changing. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m not going on a cruise to the Bahamas or buying a Rolls Royce. I live always close enough to the bread line.

“But that extra money made all the difference. It meant I could get my teeth fixed and I could keep the heating on instead of rationing it.

“And there’s food in the cupboard, plus I can spoil my little dog a bit more too.”

“And this money is not a handout or some kind of scam. I’ve worked all my life – shelving, cleaning, receptionist, all sorts of jobs. I’ve paid my taxes and my national insurance. I’ve therefore entitled to the guarantee of the pension credit.

“I still feel really thrilled with how it turned out. It was like a dream come true. The only thing that bothers me is that I could have claimed it earlier if I had known.

“I’ve missed out on thousands of pounds. That’s why I’m so keen now to get the message out to others so they don’t make the same mistake. You might have some unclaimed money right now, so get up and go.

“So the reason I’m speaking out today is to tell people: go to your CAB and ask them to check what you’re entitled to.

“If I hadn’t had a toothache last year, I would still be sitting shivering in the cold, worried about how I was going to pay those big increases in energy bills. Or I’d be in debt – spiraling out of control, which is not a good place to be. The CAB has changed my life.

A new poll for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) by YouGov has found that, among people who did not know how or if they were entitled to claim benefits, there has been a sharp drop in the number of people who feel too embarrassed to make a complaint. The decline is from one in five (20%) in 2020 to just over one in eight (12%) in 2022.

Last year, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland helped 171,000 people and released £147million to them through things like social security payments and employment rights. The average gain for those who saw a financial benefit was over £4,400.

Stephanie Millar, CAS social justice spokesperson, said: “The cost of living crisis is hitting people hard. No one should go without heating or food when there is plenty of money they could claim.

“It’s really positive to see the stigma around claiming Social Security falling, but a lot of people still aren’t claiming what they’re entitled to. CAB counselors can check if you’re entitled to anything and help you to claim it.

“We can’t promise everyone a fortune in unclaimed money, but it costs nothing to let us check for you. As with all CAB advice, this process is completely free, confidential and independent.

“If you prefer, you can check yourself using our online tool, money map.scot

“If you don’t claim what you’re entitled to, it just sits there in the government safe. Contact us today and claim it!