Over 11,000 calls have been made to the Department for Social Development’s Benefits Advice Line since it was launched in November.
The calls, from people who felt that they may be missing out on extra cash, came in response to a multi-media advertising campaign which called on older people to ‘Make the Call’.
Nelson McCausland said: “It is great news that so many older people throughout Northern Ireland are ‘making the call’ to check if they are missing out on money that is rightfully theirs.
“The entitlement check doesn’t just cover Social Security benefits; it also covers a range of other benefits and services, such as entitlement to the Warm Homes scheme, the Boiler Replacement scheme, rates relief, housing benefit and other supports, which may not necessarily be financial.
“So, as we move into the final stages of the ‘Make the Call’ campaign, I would urge all those people aged over 60 to call the freephone number, or ask a friend or family member to do so on their behalf.”
The ‘Make the Call’ campaign – which includes television, radio, and newspaper advertisements - encourages older people to ring a dedicated freephone Benefits Advice Line - 0800 232 1271. The advice line, manned by experienced advisors, provides information about what benefits older people may be entitled to and can help them make a claim.
So far, around 40% of callers have been identified as having potential entitlement to an additional benefit or service.
Minister McCausland said: “It is vitally important that we continue to encourage people over 60 to come forward and find out if they’re missing out on additional benefits that they are entitled to. You never know, you could be missing out on money that is rightfully yours.”
Just one example of someone who has benefited from the ‘Make the Call’ campaign is Harry from North Belfast. He said: “I made the call to the Benefit Advice Line and I am now better off by over £70 per week. This has made a real difference to my life.”
“I phoned the advice line shortly after seeing the ad on TV and got through to some friendly staff. They checked some of my details and told me that I might qualify for some extra cash.”
“I had some worries about applying for the extra benefits as the forms are long and difficult to fill in. But this wasn’t a problem, as the staff arranged to have someone call to my house to help me with the forms. I now get an extra £73 per week, which will go up to £77 soon. This money is life changing and I would recommend that other people make the call. Why wouldn’t you?”
Minister McCausland continued: “There is a dedicated team of experienced staff within the Social Security Agency ready to carry out a benefit entitlement check when people phone the advice line. I know the benefit system can seem daunting and that is why this team has been made available to provide full assistance with making a claim.”
Further information about the campaign can be obtained from the nidirect website: www.nidirect.gov.uk/benefitsover60