Six out of Ten elderly people not receiving entitlements
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Mickey Brady has said there needs be a focussed public awareness campaign to inform pensioners on their entitlements and on how to claim.
His call comes following revelations that six in 10 people are not receiving the rates relief to which they are entitled.
Mr Brady said:
"Just 42 per cent of older people eligible for rates relief are actually receiving it.
"Housing relief is also not being claimed by many elderly people.
"There needs to be a root and branch change in the way departments go about trying to raise the uptake of the various benefits people are entitled to.
"I like most find this shocking. Its estimated £4 billion to £7 billion of benefits goes unclaimed every year - working out at £1,500 per person.
"For many pensioners it's a daily struggle just to get by and it's often found people are unaware of the benefits that they are entitled to and are therefore being denied financial benefits to which they have contributed all of their lives.
"It is vitally important that people are fully informed of their entitlements through public awareness campaigns delivered with the same vigour as those being followed to eliminate benefit fraud. There is clearly something wrong when huge numbers of our citizens are missing out on their entitlements." ENDS
Note to Editors
In a report published on today, Monday, Age Concern and Help the Aged said the government should pay those benefits to the elderly automatically. The Department of Finance and Personnel requested the report and said they would consider its recommendations carefully.
Six in 10 elderly people are not receiving the rates relief to which they are entitled, according to the two charities. Just 42 per cent of older people eligible for rates relief are actually receiving it, they said. Housing relief is also not being claimed by many elderly people.
The report's author, Zoe Anderson, from A2B, said government needed to work more closely with voluntary and community sector groups to promote benefits available to older people.
A complete overhaul of the entire application system would make it easier for older people to apply, she said.
"Some of the key recommendations include revising benefit forms and literature, increasing the availability of home visits and providing information to people at the point of retirement."
An older people's commissioner is to be appointed by next year to defend the rights and interests of the elderly in the North of Ireland. The announcement was made by the First and deputy First ministers.