Communities Minister Paul Givan has urged people to ‘Make the Call’ to check if they are missing out on unclaimed benefits saying it is important people receive all the benefits, supports and services they and their families are entitled to.
Speaking at Lisburn Civic Centre as he launched the Department for Communities’ latest three year plan for improving benefit uptake, the Minister said: “The benefits system exists to protect the most vulnerable in society. For those unable to work due to disability, ill health or age, maximising benefit uptake can offer that safety net and help tackle poverty. “However, people can miss out on claiming their entitlement for a range of reasons; they may not believe they are eligible, feel they have enough to get by on or are uncomfortable or overwhelmed by the process.
“Improving benefit uptake is a long term vision and a key part of my Department’s social inclusion agenda. In 2015/16 alone, £18million has been generated in additional annual benefits for over 4,000 people across Northern Ireland. This also boosts our local economy by providing for increased spending on goods and services.”
The Department will work collaboratively across wider Government and with stakeholders including local councils and the voluntary sector to promote benefit awareness as part of a comprehensive programme of awareness raising, communication and support. The ‘Make the Call’ advertising campaign will run again through local broadcast, print and online media, starting 12 September.
The Minister added: “It is important that individuals and families receive all the support they are entitled to. Over the next three years my Department will assist 100,000 people review their entitlements and deliver at least £40million in additional benefits to those in need. I would urge anyone with any questions to contact our 'Make the Call’ Benefits Advice Line on 0800 232 1271 for a benefit entitlement check. It is free and confidential and you will be assisted at every stage in the process by a local Advisor.”
Over the last ten years, more than £100million in additional annual benefits have been generated through this initiative with almost 75% from claims relating to older people and much of the rest relating to people of working age who have experienced a major change in their lives, often caused by an illness or disability.
Carers and older people remain among the key vulnerable groups being targeted. Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, commented: “I welcome the Department for Communities launching their plan to increase benefit uptake by older people.
“Older people are not always aware of how to learn more about the benefits and services available to them, and as a result, some benefits go unclaimed.
“As Commissioner, I strongly support efforts to ensure that older people receive the information and support they need to access the benefits they are entitled to. I hear all too often about older people who struggle to get by and how this impacts on their wellbeing. Many older people tell me that even a small increase in their income makes a big difference to their quality of life. It is important that older people receive the financial support that they are entitled to, allowing them to be comfortable at home, get out and about in their local communities and connect with family and friends.”