Retired nurse on ‘dwindling’ pension faced home repossession as she wasn’t aware of £800 entitlement

Thabani Sithole in pictures for Independent Age

Thabani Sithole contacted Independent Age, who helped her claim Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance

Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon

Published: 28/12/2023

- 18:23

Updated: 28/12/2023

- 18:45

The nurse was forced to retire on health grounds and she found herself struggling when the coronavirus lockdown hit

A retired nurse who was being threatened with a home repossession while struggling on just the state pension was unaware she was entitled to an additional £800 per month in support.

Thabani Sithole, 74, started commercial work after she had to retire from nursing due to health reasons, but job opportunities dried up in the coronavirus lockdown.

The retiree got ill with shingles, and without her income from commercials, Ms Sithole's savings "went down the drain".

She said: “I thought I was comfortable, but my state pension and small private pension wasn’t covering the mortgage.

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Invoice and statements in pictures

Thabani Sithole's pension 'dwindled' and she had to rely on just the state pension


"My pension dwindled and I was left with just my state pension.

“It was a desperate, desperate time. We had so many problems – where to get food from, how to pay the bills, gas and electricity going up and paying council tax too.

"The house was very cold – we wore extra clothes and covered ourselves in blankets."

Making matters worse, the lack of work and income meant Ms Sithole was unable to afford her mortgage.

She said: "I called and pleaded with our mortgage provider and negotiated what we could pay, but it was never enough.

"They were threatening to repossess our home. I was so scared."

Ms Sithole heard about the older people’s financial hardship charity Independent Age in 2021, and called the helpline. After seeking help, it became clear she was eligible for support.

She recalled: "The people on the phone were so lovely, they listened to me, didn’t judge and understood as I explained why I couldn’t work.

"They helped me claim Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance which was a big relief. In total, the charity helped me claim £800 a month that I didn’t know I was entitled to. My prayers were answered."

She added: “Independent Age gave me my dignity back. Without them, I think I’d be homeless.”

Last winter, one in four older people (24 per cent) had to rely on savings because their income wasn’t enough to cover living costs, according to recent research by Independent Age.

This increased to one in three (33 per cent) for older people with a low household income (under £20,000).

Savings shouldn't be assumed in later life, the report highlighted, with University of London research finding 24 per cent of all pensioners having no savings and a further 19 per cent with savings under £5,000.

Among the poorest fifth of pensioners, 40 per cent have no savings and 24 per cent have less than £5,000.

People can check to see if they may be entitled to financial support using free and independent benefits calculators online, such as tools hosted by Turn2us, entitledto and Policy In Practice.

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