Age UK launches new benefits take-up campaign
Published on 16 July 2010 09:00 AM
Millions missing out on help with Council Tax despite financial woes
'Help us to help you' - Age UK launches new campaign backed by Barbara Windsor
Despite millions of people in later life feeling the pinch, up to 1.97 million pensioners are still missing out on council tax benefit worth £1.5 billion per year - if claimed this could boost their income by an average of £728 a year.2 Yet with homeowners making up the vast majority of pensioners missing out on the benefit (83%), Age UK is worried that many who are struggling to pay their bills don't realise they are entitled to extra help.
Launched today, the charity's nationwide More money in your pocket campaign - supported by actress Barbara Windsor - is aiming to get an extra £100 million into the pockets of 50,000 older people over the next year. Age UK is calling on older people to get in touch with their local Age UK or Age Concern, or calling Age UK Advice, the charity's free national advice line, on freephone 0800 169 65 65.
Despite 1.8 million pensioners living in poverty, and many thousands more living just above the breadline, Age UK is warning that up to a staggering £5.4 billion in benefits remains unclaimed by people in later life every year. This is because they 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 the charity.
A recent experiment set up by the charity showed the importance of face-to-face communication when trying to encourage pensioners to claim their money. At an event organised by Age UK and Age Concern Westminster, thirty pensioners were invited to help themselves to a free voucher which they could later exchange for cash but all of them refused until staff explained that the money was rightfully theirs - and even then many of them declined it. And recent anecdotal evidence has raised fears that despite being unable to afford everyday essentials, some people in later life aren't claiming their benefits because they feel that the country can't afford it.
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director, commented: "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 older people in our society. This is money that could make a huge difference to people's quality of life.
"The evidence shows that clear, independent information and advice and face-to-face communication are key to improving the take-up of benefits. Ultimately 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 any older person who is worried about money should contact their local Age UK or Age Concern, or call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 for free information and advice."
In support of Age UK's More money in your pocket campaign, Barbara Windsor said: "It is dreadful that so much money is failing to reach millions of pensioners who need it, particularly when times are so hard and every penny counts. I really hope this campaign encourages people to find out what benefits they're entitled to and put in a claim."
Age UK has published its new guides ‘More money in your pocket' and ‘Claiming benefits: a guide for people over state pension age', and an updated version of its best-selling book ‘Your rights to money benefits'.3 For further information, please call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/money-matters.
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Notes to editors
1 DWP Income Related Benefit Estimates of Take-Up in 2008-09
2 DWP Income Related Benefit Estimates of Take-Up in 2008-09
3 Age UK's guides ‘More money in your pocket' and ‘Claiming benefits: a guide for people over state pension age' are free of charge. Age UK's book ‘Your rights to money benefits' is £5.99 - all available from Age UK Advice or www.ageuk.org.uk
- The Age UK Advice line is free to call and open 365 days a year, from 8am to 7pm.
- Case studies and spokespeople are available for interview - please contact Helen Spinney to arrange.
- Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged. The Age UK family includes Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI.
Media contact: Helen Spinney
Telephone: 020 8765 7502
Out-of-hours: 07071 243 243