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Pensioners living on the breadline

11 June, 2008


"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." Mickey Brady MLA

Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Mickey Brady has said that more and more Pensioners are living on the breadline.

The Sinn Fein spokesperson on Older Peoples Issues said that most recent figures showing the rise in pensioner poverty was very disturbing.

Mr Brady said:

"When older people live on a fixed income it is virtually impossible for them to pull themselves out of poverty. Pensioners often have to cut back on essential household items to survive. Faced with the harsh choices presented by the level of state pension, many older people are foregoing food and risking their health in order to make ends meet. This is the harsh reality for many of our older generation.

"The rising cost of oil, gas and electricity leave many older people on low and fixed incomes at risk of fuel poverty. It has been clearly established that households headed by older people are much more likely to be living in fuel poverty. Older people are more likely to live in older houses which are less likely to be energy efficient."

The MLA said that there was a clear responsibility for the inequality so many older people face.

"There needs be a focused public awareness campaign to inform pensioners about their entitlements and how to claim. Six in 10 people are not receiving the rates relief to they are entitled. 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.

"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

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