Author: Age NI
Published on 23 February 2011 09:30 AM
In response to the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s report on the ‘Uptake of Benefits by Pensioners’ issued today, Age NI calls on decision makers to eliminate pensioner poverty by introducing the automatic payment of Pension Credit to ensure that older people in Northern Ireland are receiving what is rightfully theirs.
Anne O’Reilly, Age NI Chief Executive commented, ‘Northern Ireland’s high levels of pensioner poverty are a serious cause for concern and it is time to dedicate attention now or face storing up costly problems for the future. Last year alone, pensioner poverty in Northern Ireland saw a significant increase with 23% of older people in NI living in poverty compared to 16% in the UK.* Despite a number of initiatives to promote benefit uptake amongst older people it is estimated that the average amount of weekly unclaimed Pension Credit is estimated to lie in the range £1.2m to £2.3m per week.** The NIAO’s report highlights the barriers to benefit uptake for pensioners, which include perceived ineligibility, the complexity of the system, the claims process, and lack of awareness.’
She added, ‘Age NI believes the automatic payment of Pension Credit would address many of the barriers pensioners face and has the potential to significantly impact on the issue of poverty and improve the lives of people in later life. There is also a strong economic argument for automatic payments which should not be underestimated. The additional income could afford older people a better quality of life, increase local spending and boost the Northern Ireland economy. An innovative approach to benefit uptake is urgently needed with the ultimate goal being automatic payment of pension credit, if this issue isn’t addressed, pensioner poverty will continue to increase unabated. If you are concerned that you or an older relative or friend may not be claiming the right benefits, contact the Age NI Advice Service on 0808 808 7575 to speak to an advisor in confidence or visit www.ageni.org for more information.’
* DSD (2010) Households Below Average Income Report 2008-09 Belfast DSD
** A2B Benefit Take-Up Initiative Mid-Term Evaluation Report. 2009. PEER Consulting & Economic Research and Evaluation