Age NI is urging older people to pick up the telephone and contact its advice service this week to check what benefits they are entitled to.
The organisation’s chief executive Anne O’Reilly said that one chat with an experienced adviser could be the difference between life and death for someone who is currently suffering in silence.
Her call comes as the Belfast Telegraph launches its Feel the Benefit campaign in support of Age NI’s Spread The Warmth initiative, which aims to stop pensioners dying needlessly in winter.
“One phone call to the Age NI advice service could make a real difference to an older person’s income,” said Ms O’Reilly.
“All too often, older people are reticent about claiming what’s theirs. Sometimes people think it’s too difficult to get extra financial help — they don’t know who to ask, they think that the forms are too complicated or they believe that they won’t be eligible.”
She added: “All of these reasons explain why £200m in support for older people goes unclaimed every year in Northern Ireland, so we are asking you to lift the phone today.”
Statistics provided by Age NI for the Belfast Telegraph show that today 20% of the population (350,000) in Northern Ireland is over 60 years old.
They also reveal that 23% of pensioners here live in poverty, compared with 16% elsewhere in the UK. Furthermore, the level of poverty among the elderly across the province has gone up 27% since 2009, while declining in Great Britain.
Spread The Warmth was launched in November. Last year the campaign helped more than 88,000 older people following 4,000 calls to Age NI’s advice service and 2,000 client visits.
If you, or someone you know, may be entitled to benefits call the Age NI service on 0808 808 7575. Calls are confidential and free.