Don’t miss out on benefits in Covid-19 crisis – Gareth Shaw
ASadly, we have no idea how long the coronavirus crisis will interrupt our lives, and what impact it will have on all of the things that seemed straightforward in the past. The pandemic is creating significant challenges for many people who rely on face-to-face services to manage their financial affairs.
When you reach state pension age, you don’t automatically start receiving it – you have to actively make a claim. You can do this online, via the government’s Gateway service; over the phone by calling the State Pension claim line (0800 731 7898); or by sending a state pension claim form to your local pension centre.
If we’re still living in lockdown, or having a form of social distancing in four months’ time, the postal option is probably the most vulnerable to delays, with offices potentially closed or deliveries delayed. And the government has said that its phone lines are currently experiencing delays as a result of the pandemic – whether that will last until September remains to be seen, but the swiftest and simplest option is likely to be applying online.
When doing so, you’ll be asked to supply your bank details, so that you can have your pension payments paid directly to you. If this is the way that you want to manage your income, it should mean that the impact of the pandemic will not stop you from receiving your money.
However, some pensioners prefer to collect their state pension from their local Post Office – something that has become much tougher as older generations self-isolate. The good news is that the Post Office has been working closely with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure that people are still able to receive their benefits during the lockdown.
People who want to bank this way must open a Post Office Card Account, which is a simple bank account where the DWP pays your benefits. You can then draw money via a Post Office branch or Post Office-branded ATM.
If you can’t get to a Post Office, you can nominate a “Permanent Agent” – someone you trust who can collect the cash on your behalf, with their own card and PIN. This can be set up in branch or over the phone by calling 03457 22 33 44.
However, the Post Office has gone even further to help Post Office Card Account holders get their pension. A couple of weeks ago it announced that it has switched its foreign exchange cash delivery service to start delivering cash to people who need it. The DWP has initially identified 27,000 vulnerable customers in England who are shielding at home and is telling them that cash can be delivered to their door.
It will tell the Post Office who needs cash deliveries. It will then make sure money is sent to homes by special delivery, arriving by 9pm the following day. The Post Office has also advised that anyone seeking a cash delivery should contact the DWP. The service is being offered to other government departments and to devolved administrations.
The Post Office has also made two of its services available to all UK banks, building societies and credit unions, to make it easier for people who are self-isolating to access cash.
One is Payout Now, a service which sends a voucher by text, email or post to a customer who can share it with a trusted person to withdraw cash at any Post Office branch. The other is Fast Pace, a scheme that allows a customer to arrange for a trusted person (such as a carer or family member) to collect a pre-authorised cheque and cash it in at a Post Office branch.
Banks and building societies have also set up a range of services to support vulnerable people, including cash delivery services and special helplines.
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