Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, is writing to 25,000 people in Northern Ireland to offer them a free benefit check.
Launching the initiative at a ‘Winter Warmth Clinic’ Minister Storey explained that 25,000 people would be contacted directly to check if they were getting all the benefits they were entitled to.
The North Antrim MLA said: “During 2012/13 over £4.1 milllion of unclaimed benefits were paid out by directly targeting individuals who may be entitled to increased benefit support.
“To continue this important work I would urge anyone receiving a letter to make the call and see if they are receiving all that they are entitled to.
“I cannot stress the importance of making sure you, or perhaps someone in your family, are receiving all the vital financial support that is due. These payments bring a much needed element of financial relief to households across Northern Ireland.”
Advisors from Advice NI will carry out the free and comprehensive benefit checks, on behalf of the Social Security Agency, which will assess whether people may be entitled to additional benefits such as Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance and State Pension Credit.
Welcoming the Social Security Agency’s benefit uptake programme, Advice NI Chief Executive, Bob Stronge said: “Advice NI is delighted to play its part in helping to ensure that people receive their rightful social security entitlements and we commend the Minister and his Department for putting into place this very helpful benefit take-up initiative. We understand that many Northern Ireland households are struggling to make ends meet at this difficult time and our advisers will make every effort to ensure that people who would otherwise miss out claim their full entitlements.”
The Minister added: “Free benefit checks are also available to anyone in Northern Ireland who may think that they, or someone they know, may be entitled to extra benefits. They do not have to wait to receive an invitation.
“ Last year over 10,500 people who made the call to the Benefits Advice Line on 0800 232 1271, got advice about unclaimed benefits. On average they are better off by £65 a week.
“I’d urge all those who receive a letter, and even those who don’t, to make the call and see if they are getting all they are entitled to.”