Plan to improve benefit uptake

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has launched a public consultation on a draft three-year plan to improve the uptake of benefits.

The Minister has set an ambitious target in the plan of generating over £30 million in additional social security benefits for at least 10,000 people across Northern Ireland by 2016.

The consultation, ‘Maximising Incomes and Outcomes, a Three Year Plan for Improving the Uptake of Benefits’, seeks views on a number of important areas including: access and delivery of benefits; better targeting of those with potential to claim more benefits; responding to the needs of people at key life changes; and strengthening partnerships and encouraging innovation in order to improve the uptake of benefits.

The Minister said: “The uptake of benefits for vulnerable groups and others is at the fore of my Department’s policy on tackling poverty. Rising fuel costs and food bills means that there has never been a more important time to ensure all efforts are being made to optimise household incomes by ensuring financial support is in place for those who are entitled to it.

“During this consultation, I would therefore like to hear the views, not only of those that we fund and work with on a daily basis, but also those groups who interact with people that we need to reach including church and faith-based groups.

“There will be consultation events throughout Northern Ireland and I would encourage people to consider the document and give opinions as we move forward together.”

The public consultation will continue until February 26 2013 with four informal consultation meetings facilitated at community locations throughout Northern Ireland, including: Belfast on Monday 28 January, at 4.30 pm, NICVA.

The Minister will publish a final plan with the first year’s programme by end March 2013.