JUNE is going to be a big month for UK pensioners. A special day is planned that should bring a smile to thousands of faces and make the older people of these isles feel valued, respected and looked after by those in charge. Prepare to hang out the bunting and serve up cake … Pension Credit Day of Action is nearly upon us!

The big day has been planned by the Department for Work and Pensions after its statistics showed that as many as 850,000 families were missing out on this crucial benefit, which provides help with living costs and is a gateway to other forms of benefits and savings such as free TV licences, Warm Homes Discounts and council tax reductions. In the year 2019/20 a whopping £1.7 billion went unclaimed – just think what a difference that could make to the finances of the poorest pensioners.

Finally, you might be thinking, the Tories are doing something decent and humane. Benefits might be sitting at outrageously low levels amid a cost-of-living crisis but at least they are playing fair here, and making sure everyone gets what they are entitled to. Oh wait, did I say “everyone”? What I meant was “the demographic the Tories cynically calculate are most likely to vote for them”.

If your pen is poised to note down the date of the days of action that are to follow for disabled people, unemployed people, and those in in-work poverty, relax your wrist. There are none. If you’re hoping this is because those people are already claiming everything they are entitled to, dream on.

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We don’t actually know how many non-pensioners are under-claiming benefits, or failing to claim any at all, because the UK Government bean-counters have stopped counting them. It’s ingenious, really. If you stop measuring the under-claiming problem, no-one can get on your case about addressing it. And if you keep measuring over-claiming (ie benefit fraud), you can even give the impression that there might be a net over-claim; that these pesky benefit fraudsters with their bogus back injuries are bleeding the UK dry.

The opposition probably won’t prioritise talking about it, lest they give the impression that the benefits on offer are adequate and some people just lack the wit to claim them properly.

If you can’t quite believe the UK Government would have the audacity to stop measuring the vast majority of benefits take-up, and wish to consult the statistics section of their website, go ahead. There you will find a document titled “Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up: financial year 2019 to 2020”.

Looks promising, but ... surprise! It covers just two income-related benefits: pension credit, and housing benefit for pensioners. It’s like the DWP version of handing you a jar and asking you to open it, only for a snake to hit you in the face.

Amid all of the outrageous, offensive and alarming things the Tories have been getting up to over the past decade, the publication of a short statistical notice in January was never likely to grab headlines or inspire folk to take to the streets.

It read: “The change is: remove reporting on working age take-up from the next publication and focus only on pensioner age take-up. We will be ceasing publication of take-up rates for working age housing benefit and therefore restricting publication of take-up rates for housing benefit to pensioner age only. We will be ceasing publication of take-up rates for income support and income-related employment and support allowance.”

The justification for this is that a “complex methodology” is used to calculate take-up, and since the introduction of Universal Credit, well, meh, it’s too hard. How convenient. Following the news of this change, the folk at benefits calculator site entitledto.co.uk

noted that one of the main reasons the government gave for introducing Universal Credit was that it would help increase benefit take-up. As it stands, we have no way of knowing whether the people who failed to claim the “legacy benefits” to which they were once entitled are now claiming what they are due through Universal Credit instead.

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But that doesn’t seem very likely, even disregarding the information demands placed on claimants and lengthy delays built into the system.

In February the website published its annual estimate of total unclaimed benefits for 2019/20 (£15.5bn using one method of calculation, £13.5bn using another) but with significant caveats due to the data gaps. Less reliable figures mean the news value of this analysis decreases, and ultimately fewer people being prompted to check their entitlements.

A cynic might wonder if this is a deliberate ploy by a UK Government that’s happy to keep the cash and punish the poor. Some may still like to believe the likes of Tory MP Katherine Fletcher – who would rather tell those in in-work poverty to “get a better job” than suggest they check their entitlements – must be outliers, while the rest are “compassionate Conservatives” like Iain Duncan Smith.

But let’s not hold our breath for his call for a benefits hike to be heeded, or for any more “days of action” to be scheduled.