Elderly Failed To Claim £1.2m Last Year – Report

OLDER people living in Northern Ireland last year failed to claim over £1.2 million in benefits, according to latest figures.

SeniorLine, the free, confidential telephone advice service for older people run by Help the Aged Northern Ireland, identified the figure, which they say is an increase of 40 per cent on previous year’s figures.

The figures were released to coincide with the launch of SeniorLine’s annual Benchmark Report at Stormont yesterday, which put forward key recommendations to improve the circumstances of elderly people living here.

Amongst these are calls for the Government to simplify benefit forms, introduce automatic delivery of benefits, develop an action plan to deal with the current waiting list of applicants for energy efficiency measures, and implement a programme of targeting fuel-poor households that are not benefiting from fuel poverty measures.

The report is also calling on social services agencies to “develop effective monitoring to ensure that inaccuracies in benefit provision and calculation are dealt with succinctly and effectively”.

Sinead Campbell, SeniorLine manager for Northern Ireland, said the recommendations would be put forward to the Government.

She explained they were the direct result of the calls SeniorLine has received over the past year.

“SeniorLine has enabled us to highlight the areas of older people’s lives that rapidly need improvement and therefore present recommendations to the Government that reflect the needs of our beneficiaries,” she added.

Junior Ministers Jeffrey Donaldson and Gerry Kelly congratulated Help the Aged on the report.

“Minister Kelly and I are committed to addressing the issues which affect older people and will shortly be announcing an advocate for older people, pending the appointment of a commissioner,” Mr Donaldson also revealed.

“He or she will provide a strong, independent voice for older people.”

The work done by the charity in securing the unclaimed benefits was also commended by SDLP older people’s spokesperson Mary Bradley.

“Every year there are thousands of pounds of unclaimed benefits lost. This is an unfortunate situation because many older people are in great need of benefits, but with the complexities of the benefits system many people just don’t know who or where to turn for help and advice,” she said.

“Help the Aged Seniorline provides older people with free, impartial and confidential advice over the phone.

“This service is a lifeline for many older people and I’m delighted that more and more elderly people are using this service and as a result are securing benefits they are entitled to.”

You can reach Seniorline on 0808 808 7575.