Free bus pass: How to check when you can apply as the DWP plans to raise qualifying age

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Pensioners can receive a number of perks when they reach state pension age. This can include help with NHS costs and reductions in council tax bills. On top of this, retirees will be able to apply for free bus passes once they reach their state pension age, so long as they live in England or Wales. Currently, most people will be able to make these claims from the age of 66 but this will be changing over the coming years.

Under the DWP’s current plans, the state pension age, for both men and women, will be rising to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Beyond this, it will rise to 68 by 2046.

It may then rise further beyond this in the coming decades, potentially eventually reaching the 70s as life expectancy continues to rise. Recently, a DWP spokesperson issued the following statement on state pension age changes: “The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality. Raising State Pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”

As the state pension age rises, so too will the older person’s bus pass age in England.


Fortunately, the Government provides a free-to-use tool on its website which allows users to work out exactly when they’ll qualify for free bus passes.

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On the Government’s website, users can access a “Check your State Pension age” tool which allows people to see when they can access their payments, as well as when they’ll qualify for Pension Credit or free bus passes.

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When using this tool, users will need to identify if they would like to calculate their state pension age or bus pass age. When the bus pass option is selected, users will need to enter their date of birth.

The final screen will provide users with an exact date for when they can claim a free bus pass age. To start the application process, claimants will need to contact their local councils.

The Government’s website also has tools available to those who are not sure of who their local authority is.

State pension issues have plagued the DWP in recent months, as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) ruled the Government failed to communicate retirement age changes to 1950s women effectively, and payment delays have swept the UK.

The latter issue recently came up in the Commons as Dr Philippa Whitford, the Scottish National Party MP for Central Ayrshire, pushed the DWP to address the issue.

Dr Whitford said: “To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment she has made of the timeliness of the delivery of the state pension to an eligible person on reaching the state pension age?”

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Yesterday, Guy Opperman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the DWP, responded.

“DWP is aware that a small number of new state pension claims have been subject to delays in receiving payment,” he said.

“The Department is working hard to clear the current backlog, many of which have accrued since the Covid Pandemic.

“We are prioritising overdue payments and payments that are imminent within the next few weeks. Normal service will be resumed by the end of October 2021.

“Claimants don’t need to act, we have identified the cases and will process them as soon as possible.”

Under the current rules, men will be able to access the new state pension if they were born on or after April 6, 1951. For women, they’ll need to have been born on or after April 6, 1953.

Anyone who reached their state pension age before April 6, 2016 will get payments under the old rules instead.

To be eligible for a new state pension, a claimant will need at least 10 qualifying years on their National Insurance record. To receive the full amount of £179.60 per week, at least 35 years will be needed – although this may differ for some such as if they were contracted out.

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State pensions will not be received automatically, they will need to be claimed. Claims for a state pension can be made up to four months ahead of reaching one’s state pension age.

The Government notes the quickest way to claim a state pension is by going online, but it is also possible for claims to be made on the phone or through the post.

So long as it is claimed, an initial payment should arrive within five weeks of reaching state pension age. Beyond this, claimants will get payments once every four weeks.

The specific day of the week a person receives their payment will depend on their National Insurance number. The last two digits of this number will determine when payments come through, as the following details:

  • 00 to 19 – Monday
  • 20 to 39 – Tuesday
  • 40 to 59 – Wednesday
  • 60 to 79 – Thursday
  • 80 to 99 – Friday

Where payment dates fall on a bank holiday, the money will likely come through on the first working day beforehand.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the next bank holiday falls on December 27, 2021. In Scotland, the next bank holiday will fall on November 30.

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