Cost of living: check your entitlements to benefits and retirement urges charity

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Helen Simpson, 67, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, went to the dentist last summer with a toothache and was told the treatment would cost hundreds of pounds.

Ms Simpson said her income from a state pension and personal independence payment was ‘not enough to live on’ and she was struggling to afford treatment.

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She said: “I was actually shocked because I thought as a pensioner I would get it for free.

From left to right: Karen Wilks (Musselburgh CAB), Helen Simpson and Sarah Baldry (Musselburgh CAB).

“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 allowance and they thought I was eligible to claim it.

Ms Simpson received help from CAB advisers to claim the extra benefit, which increased her income by £83 a week and was backdated by three months. The £900 payment was made to her bank account that evening, which she describes as a ‘life-changing’ sum of money.

She added: “Well, you can imagine, I was gob-smacked. This kind of money changes my life.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going on a Bahamas cruise or buying a Rolls Royce. I still live pretty close 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.

Citizens Advice Scotland, the charity responsible for all CABx in Scotland, urges people to check benefits and other funds they may be entitled to but are not receiving.

Ms Simpson urged others to go to their local CABx for help and is helping to launch the charity’s ‘Get it Claimed’ campaign.

“I now want 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.

“You could be like me, missing out on £80 a week. Or more. It’s your money, so claim it.

“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 would be in debt – I would spin out of control, which is not a good place to be.

Stephanie Millar, from Citizen’s Advice Scotland, 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.

“Every penny counts. We can’t promise that everyone has a fortune in unclaimed money, but it costs nothing to let us check for you.

“So today I’m asking people across Scotland to check out what you’re missing. Your local CAB can do this whether you’re working or not, retired, student, single or with family. Our service caters everyone, regardless of the circumstances.

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