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Overhaul of benefits system needed – McLaughlin

21 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has backed calls from Age Concern and Help the Aged for benefits to the elderly to be paid automatically and for an urgent review of the benefits system after its was found in a new survey that six out of ten pensioners on low incomes are being put off claiming benefits because the system is too complicated.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"It is worrying that so many pensioners are being put off claiming benefits that they are rightly entitled to because the system is far too complicated.

"In a study carried out by Age Concern and Help the Aged they found that only 42% of elderly people on lower income claim rates relief which they were entitled to.

"It is also a reality that many do not claim benefits because of the complexity of the system and because they find means-testing intrusive and are put off by complicated forms. There are billions of pounds going unclaimed each year. It is crazy that that is happening at a time when many pensioners are finding it hard just to heat their homes due to rising fuel costs.

"There needs to be an urgent review of the way people can access the benefits system, the forms for many of the benefits are far to complicated. I back the call from both charities for benefits to be paid automatically to those who are entitled to them rather than being faced with a mountain of paper work and form filling annually.

"I would urge anyone who is unsure of what they are entitled to or needs help filling out benefits forms to contact any of the voluntary and community groups throughout the city who do an excellent job helping many people get what they are rightly entitled to." ENDS

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