RETTIREMENT apartments builder McCarthy & Stone says many pensioners on low incomes are still not claiming the benefits they’re entitled to.

The company, which has built more than 45,000 apartments , including local sites in Bingley, idle, Bradford and Skipton, says it has helped nearly 250 homeowners recover unclaimed benefits worth around £900,000, in the past year - the highest figure since it launched a free advice service for residents in 2011.

McCarthy & Stone has urged pensioners to carry out a full benefits check, including state pension, pension credit, attendance and disability allowance, council tax, health benefits, winter fuel allowance, TV licence and warm home discount scheme.

It said figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that up to £2.8 billion in pension credit is not being taken up by pensioners, while the total amount of unclaimed pension credit, housing, council tax and disability benefits is £5.5billion.

The company said many pensioners who were struggling financially were put off claiming benefits due to a low awareness of what they are entitled to, the fear of talking to strangers about money problems and complicated application forms.

Colin Cuthbert, McCarthy & Stone's entitlements advisor, said: “ Too many retirees are still unaware of what they’re entitled to and believe that because they own their own apartment they will be disqualified from claiming benefits when this isn’t the case. The extra help can make a real difference to many older people who have been struggling to meet the rising cost of living.

" A majority of the people we help have never claimed anything extra in their life, but we explain that they are totally entitled to review their options.

“Over the past 12 months I’ve spoken to 885 people about their benefits. From this number, 242 are either now receiving new benefits for the first time, or were entitled to an increase in their benefits. For example, one couple are now receiving an extra £12,035 per year in benefits.”

McCarthy and Stone said recent research by the DWP on barriers to claiming benefits showed that , of those who had heard of pension credit, 54 per cent had only heard the name, 35 per cent did not know who to contact about the state pension or other benefits, 62 per cent said they did not like ‘asking’ for benefits and 65 per cent did not think they were eligible. The DWP estimated that about one in three of those eligible are still not claiming pension credit.