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The take-up of multiple means-tested benefits by British pensioners. Evidence from the Family Resources Survey

By Ruth Hancock, Stephen Pudney, Geraldine Barker, Monica Hernandez and Holly Sutherland


Non take-up of means-tested benefits among pensioners is of longstanding concern. It will assume increased importance from 2003 with the introduction of the new means-tested Pension Credit, which will subsume Income Support and to which about half of all pensioners are expected to be entitled. In this paper we use Family Resources Survey data spanning the period April 1997 to March 2000 to investigate patterns of take-up of the three main means-tested benefits to which pensioners may be entitled – Income Support (IS), Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB). We find that although 36% of pensioners in our sample are failing to claim their entitlements to at least one of these benefits, only 16% of non claimants are failing to claim amounts worth more than 10% of their income. The proportions by which claiming all entitlements would increase non-claimants’ incomes are more useful indicators than individual benefit take-up rates, of the effectiveness of means-tested benefits. In general take-up is high where entitlement is high. But there are exceptions to this which may reflect the claims process and/or a greater degree of social stigma associated with IS than with HB or CTB

Topics: benefit take-up, pensions, means-testing, welfare participation
Publisher: Dept. of Economics, University of Leicester.
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:

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  3. (1988). Income Related Benefits: the Causes of Non Take-up.
  4. (2003). The Pensions Primer. London: PPI

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