Older people urged to claim their rightful benefits

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The amount of money going unclaimed in benefits by older people in Northern Ireland is £200 million, yet staggering figures show that 19 per cent of older people in Newtownabbey are living in poverty.

Age NI believes this lost money should be in the pockets and purses of older people in Newtownabbey and this week - in a campaign launched this week exclusively in conjunction with the Newtownabbey Times - is encouraging the borough’s older residents to claim what they are entitled to.

Anne O’Reilly, Age NI chief executive, said: “It’s worrying that poverty in Newtownabbey is well above the UK average of 16 per cent.

“Age NI, with the support of the Newtownabbey Times, are urging older people, their family friends or carers, to call the freephone Age NI Advice Service to claim their rightful benefits. Any unclaimed monies will go back to the Government.”

Newtownabbey Times editor Valerie Martin said: “We know there are many older people who may be reluctant to come forward for help with benefits.

“However, Age NI’s special advice service makes it easy for them to find out what they are entitled to and to help make those claims.

“We are delighted to help champion this cause and to make life better for the borough’s older residents,” she said.

Anne O’Reilly explained that since December, Age NI advice lines have received 3,100 calls – double the amount last year.

“Our advisors have carried out four times more benefits checks than this time last year and have identified £266,857 in unclaimed benefits for older people.

“Yet, from a sample survey of 1,000 calls, only three per cent of calls came from older people in Newtownabbey.

“Age NI and the Newtownabbey Times are championing this campaign to increase calls to our advice lines and help make older people in Newtownabbey better off.

“A successful benefit check could, on average, provide up to £62 per week in additional financial support to an older person.”

Pensioner poverty has been on the rise in Northern Ireland since 2009 by approx. 27 per cent but declining in Great Britain.

Pensioner poverty figures are based on those with incomes below 60 per cent of contemporary equivalised median income, after housing costs.

Anne said: “There is currently £200 million per year going unclaimed by older people in Northern Ireland and £1.3 - 2.3 million of this is going unclaimed in Pension Credit. This is a massive amount of wasted money that could provide an extra income for an older person and make a huge difference to their lives, reduce poverty and boost the local economy.”