Pensioners Miss Out on Millions in Unclaimed Benefits
Date: Wednesday, 16 May 2012
Reference: PAC 07/11/12
Benefit-paying agencies do not have an accurate estimate of the extent of unclaimed benefit by people of pensionable age.
Although the estimates are limited, the latest available figures1 suggested people of pension age here could be missing out on benefits in the range of £31 million to £197 million. This is highlighted in the latest report from the Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is published today.
Speaking at the launch of the report, PAC Chairperson Paul Maskey MP said: “Currently there is no accurate or up-to-date estimate of the benefit uptake gap. It is simply unacceptable to think that there may be millions of pounds in benefits for older people lying unclaimed from one year to the next.
“Some 55,000 of our pensioners are classified as living in poverty. Social Security benefits make up a significant proportion of older people’s income, and it is imperative that older people receive all of their entitlement.”
The report found that where DSD specifically targeted people, there was an increased uptake of benefit. Targeted exercises, which have been implemented since 2005, helped older people claim an additional £23 million. A further £8 million has been generated by mailshot and outreach activities. However, the report noted that fewer than half of those contacted replied to officials and only nine per cent successfully obtained additional benefits.
Mr Maskey said: “From my own experience, I know that older people can be reluctant to talk to government agencies or share their personal circumstances with officials. We also know that many people are more comfortable talking with representatives from the independent advice sector and other community groups. We believe that all those agencies involved in paying benefits should work more closely with the voluntary and community sectors to target hard-to-reach groups.
“We also believe that sharing information between agencies responsible for older people’s benefits offers the best opportunity for helping them receive the benefit that they are entitled to.
“Activities designed to improve uptake activities such as the “Make the Call” campaign and a new Innovation Fund, are therefore welcome. It is important to track what they achieve and ensure that there is a coherent strategy and vision. Our older people deserve no less.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The Family Resources Survey 2004-06
- In its Report the Committee noted that for every pound spent on programmes designed to increase benefit uptake, £11 of increased benefit was claimed.
- There are three main agencies involved in paying benefits for older people: the Social Security Agency (SSA), the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Land and Property Services (LPS).