Some of Newtownabbey’s most vulnerable residents have benefited from an extra £1.2m in their pockets, thanks to the Benefit Uptake Programme.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland’s Benefit Uptake Programme saw nearly 5,000 people across Northern Ireland, most of them older people, gain almost £16.9million in new and additional social security benefits.
This increased the outcomes from last year by nearly £4million.
Speaking about the growing success of the Benefit Uptake Programme, Minister McCausland said: “Promoting the uptake of benefits is a component of my Department’s efforts in tackling poverty and improving lives for the most vulnerable.
“It ensures extra money for grocery shopping in local communities or towards fuel for keeping homes warm in winter. This is additional money that is making a difference to people in difficult economic times.
“It is always important that we ensure that people who are entitled to benefits receive them. The fact that we have managed to secure nearly an additional £17million this year for people in need in Northern Ireland, is very encouraging indeed.
“Local people mainly aged 60 and over who benefited from the benefit uptake programme last year, were better off by an average of £65 per week. I am committed to making sure that our efforts in this area continue and grow, and I am confident of even greater success going forward.”
The Minister also reminded the public that a refreshed Make the Call advertising campaign has been ongoing since January as part of the 2013-2014 benefit uptake programme.
The Minister added: “I call on people, in any and all circumstances, to come forward and find out if they are entitled to any additional benefits. That is why I have reinvested in a fresh Make the Call advertising campaign to help people recognise their needs, check their potential entitlements and to make a claim for financial or other help.
“The Make the Call campaign again includes television, newspaper and outdoor advertisements, encouraging people in a range of circumstances, including older people and those looking after them, to ring a dedicated freephone benefit advice Line - 0800 232 1271.
“The advice line is manned by friendly and experienced advisors who can provide information about what benefits they may be entitled to and to arrange help with making a claim where it is needed,” the Minister said.
The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, added: “Increased numbers of older people applying for, and receiving the benefits they are rightfully entitled to, is very good news. I welcome the efforts of DSD to increase benefit take up by older people - and I will continue to support the ‘Make the Call’ campaign so that more and more older people and those looking after them receive the money that they should.
“Too many older people still live on incomes that make it difficult to get by. This can cause constant worry and can make it difficult for older people to keep warm, keep well and join in with all the family and community activities they wish to.
“Improving the numbers of older people who receive all the benefits they should can make a huge difference to their quality of life, so I would encourage every older person to get a benefit check, to see if they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.”