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UP TO£1.8BN LEFT UNCLAIMED BY BRITAIN'S PENSIONERS

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The British Gas Help the Aged Partnership, shocked by the staggering amount of benefits left unclaimed by Britain's...
The British Gas Help the Aged Partnership, shocked by the staggering amount of benefits left unclaimed by Britain's pensioners, is urging older people to claim all the benefits that they are entitled to.

Of the combined means tested benefits of Minimum Income Guarantee (Income Support), Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, a staggering£1.8bn* is left unclaimed.

A MORI survey** commissioned by the partnership shows that the group in most need of financial support is unaware of their entitlement to that support.

The latest government figures show that up to 770,000 pensioners are entitled to claim Minimum Income Guarantee, but don't. The survey of older people on low incomes commissioned by British Gas and Help the Aged found that:

- 83% of older people on low incomes said they knew little or nothing about Minimum Income Guarantee

- 50% of older people on low incomes feel that their income restricts them from leading a full and active life

On average, pensioners could be missing out on nearly£22 per week from Minimum Income Guarantee (Income Support for pensioners) - over£1,000 annually. This money would make a huge difference to many pensioners relying on the state pension and living in poverty.

To help make the process of claiming simpler, the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership has produced 'Can You Claim It?'. This free booklet offers clear and simple advice on eligibility and how to make a claim.

The leaflet covers such topics as: Minimum Income Guarantee, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and help with health costs.

Mervyn Kohler, Help the Aged head of public affairs, commented: 'Of the many reasons why older people do not claim their full entitlement lack of knowledge and understanding are the most significant. There are other, more insidious reasons though. After being self sufficient for a lifetime, it can be hard for someone to apply for what is essentially a means tested benefit. There is some reluctance to admit that help is needed and to have financial affairs aired in public. The British Gas Help the Aged Partnership urges pensioners, nonetheless, to help each other and claim what is rightfully theirs.

'The complexity of the benefits system can be daunting. Despite benefits being available, more help is clearly needed to ensure people can claim what they are entitled to. Help the Aged would be delighted to work with future governments to set targets on reducing unclaimed benefits and to work together to achieve this goal.'

Andrew McCallum, British Gas community affairs manager commented: 'The average weekly amount of£22 presently unclaimed could make an enormous difference to the lives of many older people. I would urge all older people to pick up a copy of the Can You Claim It? leaflet and find out about their benefit entitlements.'

Copies of the leaflet are available by sending an SAE to Information Department (CYCI?), Help the Aged, 207-221 Pentonville Road, London N1 9UZ. Leaflets are also available from Help the Aged shops.

Notes

- *Statistics taken from the Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up in 99/00. DSS 2001

- **MORI sample: 504 telephone interviews conducted throughout the UK among a quota sample of adults aged 65+ living in households with an annual income of under£6,500. All respondents had previously been interviewed by MORI using their general public Omnibus Survey and had agreed to be re-interviewed. The research method excludes older people on low incomes who do not have a telephone in their household

- Every year more than 150,000 Can You Claim It? leaflets are distributed via doctors surgeries, libraries, pensioner groups and individuals. For the last three years it has been produced thanks to the support of British Gas

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