Confusion over the complicated benefits system is keeping older people from black and minority ethnic groups from claiming much needed benefits cash, warns Age Concern today as it launches the next major phase in its year-long Your Rights benefits campaign.
New research from Age Concern has found that almost 6 out of 10 BME older people are discouraged from claiming benefits because they find the system confusing, and 38% are embarrassed about putting in a claim.1 Yet receiving the benefits they are entitled to could make a huge difference to their quality of life and the charity is urging older people and their families to make contact for help and advice with putting in a claim.
Four years on from the launch of the Government’s flagship benefit for older people – Pension Credit2 – a third of those entitled to claim are still missing out. 3 Despite huge increases to the cost of living for pensioners in recent years, up to £2.5 billion is left unclaimed each year.4 Many older people are missing out on benefits such as Pension Credit because they find the system difficult to understand, are embarrassed about claiming, find the help and information available in languages other than English is inadequate or simply don’t realise they’re entitled to the extra cash.
The charity is particularly concerned that older people from black and minority ethnic groups are more at risk of poverty than other groups. Government figures shows that over a quarter of BME older people (26%) are living in poverty compared to 17% of white older people. 5
Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern said:
“Many older people from BME groups are put off claiming benefits because they find the system confusing. Yet this is money that is rightfully theirs and, if claimed, could make a big difference to their weekly income.
“Pension Credit is one of the main benefits aimed at older people, it can make a big difference to pensioners’ weekly income and can open the door to other benefits – we would urge any older person who finds their income stretched to see if they could claim. Our benefits advisers are waiting to help make claiming simple, with many offering advice in languages other than English, so make sure you get in touch.”
Age Concerns across the country provide free, clear and confidential benefits information and advice, and help with filling in forms. Age Concern knows that many older people from black and minority ethnic groups, particularly those whose first language is not English, prefer to receive help through face-to-face benefits advice through local organisations that they trust who offer help in languages other than English. Many Age Concerns in areas with high BME populations provide benefits advice in languages other than English.
TV Presenter June Sarpong, who is supporting Age Concern’s Your Rights campaign, said:
“It is disgraceful that millions of older people across the UK are having to scrimp and save just to get by. Claiming benefits could make a massive difference but many older people just don’t realise the money is there waiting for them.
“Older people from black or minority ethnic groups are much more likely to be living in poverty so finding out if they’re entitled to extra benefits cash could really help. It is so important that older people from all backgrounds claim the money that’s rightfully theirs, and family can often play a huge part in encouraging people to claim. Any older person, or anyone worried that their parents or grandparents are missing out, should talk to Age Concern about benefits – it could change their lives.”
Age Concern is calling on the Government to make it easier for older people to claim benefits by introducing a single claim-line for all means-tested benefits, paying benefits automatically to those entitled and providing more help and information in languages other than English. These calls are backed up by the charity’s new findings which show that 85% of pensioners think automatic payments would help ease the claiming process and 80% would like to see a single benefits claim-line introduced.6
To find their nearest Age Concern or for more information, older people, their friends, relatives or carers, can call the charity’s free information line on 0800 00 99 66.