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Published on 13 October 2010 04:30 PM

Automatic payments could boost local economy, says Age NI


Figures show that pensioner poverty in Northern Ireland has significantly increased over the past year with 23% of older people in NI living in poverty compared to 16% in the UK* and an incredible £1.2m - £2.3m of Pension Credit is being left unclaimed each week by older people here**.

Age NI is calling on decision-makers to make a more determined effort to eliminate pensioner poverty by introducing the automatic payments of benefits in order to ensure that older people in Northern Ireland are receiving what is rightfully theirs.

Anne O’Reilly, Age NI Chief Executive, said:
‘Poverty remains a serious problem and continues to prevent the full participation of older people as active and equal citizens in Northern Ireland. Figures from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) show that pensioner poverty in Northern Ireland has significantly increased over the past year with 23% of older people in NI living in poverty compared to 16% in the UK. This clearly demonstrates that the poverty gap between Northern Ireland and the UK is widening. Poverty among older women is a particular cause for concern, with almost one in three single women over the age of 75 living in poverty*.’

‘Despite government efforts to implement benefit uptake initiatives, the fact that an estimated £1m - £2m of Pension Credit is being left unclaimed in Northern Ireland every week proves that more substantial measures are needed to help lift older people out of poverty. Age NI wants to see older people gain access to benefits that are rightfully theirs; benefits that will positively impact upon their lives. Age NI believes the automatic payment of benefits has the potential to significantly impact on the issue of poverty and improve the lives of people in later life.’

She continued, ‘As well as improving outcomes for individual older people, there is also a strong economic argument for automatic payments. The additional income could afford older people a better quality of life, increase local spending and boost the Northern Ireland economy.’

‘Age NI wants a firm commitment from government to make a more determined effort to address pensioner poverty by introducing automatic payments. The automatic payment of benefits, without having to make a claim, has the potential to ensure that older people in Northern Ireland are receiving what is rightfully theirs.’

* DSD (2010) Households Below Average Income Report 2008-09 Belfast DSD

** A2B Benefit Take-up Initiative, Mid Term Evaluation Report, submitted by Peer Consulting and Economic Research and Evaluation

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

  1. Anne O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Age NI is available for interview
  2. Find out more in the Age NI Briefing ‘Opportunities for Ageing: Autumn Spending Review’, visit www.ageni.org/briefing
  3. Age NI is the new charity combining Age Concern NI & Help the Aged in Northern Ireland
  4.  For further information about the charity, visit www.ageni.org

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575