A simple benefits check could give you an extra £62 a week

Beryl McKnight
Beryl McKnight

This week, as part of the Age NI and Newtownabbey Times campaign to increase benefit uptake for older people, we’ll highlight how easy it is to take that first step to claiming what you’re entitled to.

The Age NI Advice and Advocacy Service is a free service that offers independent and confidential support to older people, their families and carers on a range of issues from benefits and community care to residential care, housing and health.

Older people across NI are in need of support. Since December 2012 alone, the advice team has received 3,100 calls and helped to identify over £250,000 in unclaimed benefits for older people who picked up the phone for a free benefit check.

Last week, we told you that £200 million is going unclaimed in benefits by older people in Northern Ireland. With 19 per cent of older people in Newtownabbey living in poverty*, Age NI, in partnership with the Newtownabbey Times, would like to urge older people, their family and carers to call the Age NI advice line so that this money is in their pockets instead. A successful benefit check could, on average, provide up to £62 per week in additional financial support to an older person.

“I called the Age NI Advice Service for a free benefits check, ‘said local older person Beryl McKnight, ‘and the advisor I spoke to was absolutely brilliant! She made me feel really at ease. Because I wasn’t sure if I was entitled to anything, she went through all that I asked and made sure there wasn’t anything I’d forgotten to talk about. She looked at all the possibilities for me and advised that, if my situation ever changed, I was to get back in touch straight away.

She continued: “I didn’t feel embarrassed about ringing and I’d advise all pensioners to ring too. These benefits are set aside for older people and they should be claimed.

“There’s no embarrassment in asking if you are entitled to more money as the person at the other end of the phone at Age NI makes you feel at ease. This was a good experience and gave me peace of mind.”

Caroline McKeown, an older person from Carrickfergus and chair of the Mid and East Antrim Agewell Network, said: “I’d really encourage people to call the Age NI advice line for a benefits check. There are lots of people out there, especially living in rural areas, who don’t know how or where to claim and sometimes they’re a little concerned about how benefits will affect their current situation. We must tell our older family and friends that this additional money is there…it’s for you….and you’re entitled to it!”

Mark Miller, AES NI country manager, said: “AES is delighted to add support to the Age NI campaign in the Carrick, Larne and Newtownabbey area. The work Age NI do locally is very important to us and can have real impact on our community. This campaign aims to target pensioner poverty and help put more money into the pockets of older people by making them aware of the benefits they are missing out on.’

If you or someone you know would like to have a free benefits check, call the Age NI Advice Service on freephone 0808 808 7575 and speak to a trained advisor in confidence.