East Belfast Alliance Assembly Member, Cllr Naomi Long, has written to John Spellar MP calling for the extension of a funding package from the Department of Social Development, aimed at helping advice service providers increase the uptake of means-tested benefits, particularly among older people.
Cllr Naomi Long MLA, said, “This funding was initially given because the Department recognised that welfare reforms and, in particular, the introduction of the Pension Credits and abolition of benefit books had made an existing problem of low benefit uptake, particularly amongst older people, much worse.
“The Department is now stating that this financial support may not be continued, despite a report which said that the projects were providing value for money.
“It is estimated that at least 1 in 3 older people are still not claiming the means-tested benefits to which they are entitled. Here in East Belfast, pension credit is only claimed by around 3870 pensioners, compared with an estimated 5700 people who are entitled to but not claiming this benefit. It’s also
estimated, by Help the Aged, that around 4285 pensioners in East Belfast are living in poverty.
“Given these figures, there is clearly a need for a bigger effort to get people onto the benefits they to which they are entitled, rather than any reduction in funding which is aimed at doing precisely that.
“I have written to the Minister, John Spellar, seeking reassurance that this funding will not be discontinued. There is currently a campaign to ensure that people who claiming benefits to which they are not entitled are stopped, a measure which I wholeheartedly support. I want to be certain that equal attention is given to ensuring that those who are entitled to benefits are receiving them.”