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Published on 03 May 2011 11:00 AM

Age Cymru is kicking off our ‘Let’s talk money’ campaign today - encouraging people in later life to claim the benefits they are entitled to.

As much as £5.4 billion in pensioner benefits goes unclaimed each year across the UK, often because people are unaware of the help which is available.

It is a scandal that thousands of older people across Wales continue to have to deal with the effects of poverty and to survive on inadequate incomes.

Many have been hit hard by the rising cost of food, which has shot up by 6.2 per cent and energy which has increased by 4.2 per cent over the last year.

Pensioners are particularly vulnerable to climbing inflation rates because they spend a larger percentage of their budget on food and fuel, as shown in Age UK’s Silver RPI.

Research by Age Cymru has revealed that 89 per cent of people in Wales consider the basic state pension insufficient to live on, and 90 per cent of those questioned believed the basic level should be raised.

Despite just under half of all pensioners being entitled to Pension Credit – a top-up for people on low incomes – a third of people don’t claim it.

Yet those who do claim say it has improved their quality of life or helped them worry less about making ends meet.

Much more needs to be done in order that all pensioners receive the money to which they are entitled.

115,000 pensioners live in poverty in Wales, yet millions of pounds of benefits remain unclaimed by people in later life every year.

This is because many people are unaware of the range of benefits available or don't realise they are eligible, think the claiming process is too complicated and intrusive, or simply feel too proud to make a claim – “I would rather be proud and poor than beg for money” is a common view expressed to Age Cymru.

Launched today, the ‘Let’s talk money’ campaign is aiming to get extra money into the pockets of older people in Wales over the next year.

Age Cymru is calling on older people to get in touch with their local Age Cymru or Age Concern, or calling Age UK Advice, the charity’s free bi-lingual advice line, on freephone 0800 169 65 65.

Victoria Lloyd, Age Cymru’s Director of Influencing, comments:

“At a time when so many people are struggling financially, it is unacceptable that vital benefits are failing to reach some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

“As evidenced by our research, older people are hit particularly hard.

“This is money to which they are entitled and we know it could make a huge difference to people’s quality of life.

“The best way to ensure that people receive the benefits they are entitled to is for them to be paid automatically.

“But in the meantime, the evidence shows that clear, independent information and advice and face-to-face communication are key to improving the take-up of benefits.

“Our campaign is working to break down the barriers that stop older people claiming benefits such as people not realising that they are entitled to the money or feeling embarrassed to claim.

“We’re asking the families, carers, friends, neighbours and even GPs to encourage older people they know to make a claim.

"Any older person who is worried about money should contact their local Age Cymru or Age Concern, or call on 0800 169 65 65 for free information and advice.”

Age Cymru has an online benefits checker which is a quick and easy way to find out if you might be entitled to any benefits.

It only takes 5 minutes and could result in some extra income for you. Go to the online benefits checker.

To accompany the campaign Age Cymru has also published the ‘Benefits, entitlements and financial assistance’ guidet for older people living in Wales; and a simple Pension Credit guide.

To order these booklets, please call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65 or visit www.agecymru.org.uk/letstalkmoney 

For more information: Call Age Cymru Advice: 08000 223 444