After reading your column I wonder if I would be entitled to any benefits towards my rent and Council Tax?
I am a woman pensioner, living alone, and receive a private pension of £264 a month in addition to my State Pension of £126.54 a week. I pay £85 a week rent and £74 a month Council Tax.
You appear to be entitled to both Housing Benefit and a Council Tax reduction. As I do not know your age I cannot say for certain what you are due, because the rules are more generous for people who have reached the age of 65. If you are under 65 you are entitled to Housing Benefit that would reduce your weekly basic rent (that means rent exclusive of water charges and any relevant service charges) to about £24 a week.
You would also be entitled to a Council Tax reduction that would reduce your Council Tax to about £37.50 a month. If you are older you are entitled to Housing Benefit that would reduce your weekly basic rent to about £14 a week and your Council Tax to about £22 a month.
For people in your age group these benefits are backdated for 13 weeks, so by my reckoning you could be at least £60 a week better and due for a windfall of at least £700. You can claim from your local council.
These benefits are affected by any savings over £10,000, but as you did not mention any I have assumed your savings are less than this. If they are more but under £16,000, you would be entitled to a bit less. If they exceed £16,000 you would not be entitled to anything.
I have heard that you can now increase your State Pension by paying a lump sum. How does it work?
This new scheme only applies to people who have reached pension age, or will do so before April 6 next year. It is not considered suitable for people who do not get the full basic State Pension.
By making a one-off payment you can choose to increase your State Pension by between £1 and £25 a week.
The bigger the increase you choose, the more you have to pay of course. Also the younger you are, the bigger your payment has to be. The increase, like the pension, is taxable.
With so many variables, it is impossible to generalise about the cost. But to take just one example taken at random, a man aged 73 seeking to increase his pension by £25 a week would have to pay about £18,000. To know more you can telephone 0345 600 4270.