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Joint departmental approach needed to aid benefit uptake

30 September, 2008

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA has today called on the three Executive Department with responsibility for Benefit uptake to forge a cross departmental approach to deliver to those who are not availing of benefits they may be entitled to.

Speaking today Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said:

"In my proposals that were given three weeks ago to the First Minister, Peter Robinson, one of the main points was the initiation of a benefits uptake campaign. There is a massive pool of money that is not being accessed by those most in need of it.

"At a time when people across the board a facing hardship due to increased energy prices and food prices those who are most vulnerable, and should be in receipt of benefits, are not being able to access these fully.

"The DSD estimates the amount of benefits that went unclaimed in the last year range from £37 million to £315 million. This is staggering on two fronts. Clearly the amount that people are loosing out on and the fact that there is no clear figure.

"The DSD can tell you how much was fraudulently claimed however they cannot identify exactly how much was not delivered.

"Simple steps would include the creation of more benefit or pension advisers, shared resources and greater efficiency measures.

"I am asking the three departments who have responsibility in these areas, Finance, Social Development and Health and Social Services, to examine ways in which benefits uptake could be streamlined and a system put in place to deliver maximum uptake. This is already a priority under the recent findings of the Child Poverty Inquiry.

"Ultimately there needs to be three things - greater uptake, greater awareness and greater delivery."

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