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£16million extra for vulnerable people in Northern Ireland: Storey

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Almost 5,000 people in Northern Ireland have more money in their pockets today than they did last year.

Announcing the success of his Department’s Benefit Uptake Programme for 2014/15, Minister Storey confirmed that 4,702 people gained an additional £15.9million in benefits they were entitled to, but were not claiming.

In fact, since 2005, the Department for Social Development’s benefit uptake work has generated nearly £100million of additional income for people in Northern Ireland.

Minister Storey said: “This is the second year of my Department’s Benefit Uptake Programme which is tailored to ensure that people in Northern Ireland receive all the benefits they are entitled to. The results are impressive; not only are thousands of people receiving extra help with their household bills, but this additional £16million also benefits our economy with people spending the extra cash in their local communities.

“I am delighted with the continued success of this programme. My Department had set a three year target to ensure that £30million in additional benefits was claimed by our customers by March 2016. Not only has this target been met, but it has been exceeded already with £30.1million being claimed by 8,968 people since the programme began in 2013.”

Overall, the number of people who responded to the Department’s benefit uptake activities in 2014 /15 increased by 24% on the previous year to 43,610. In particular, the Department’s high profile ‘Make the Call’ advertising generated over 18,000 calls, resulting in annual benefits generated equating to just under £6million.

Minister continued: “Despite already exceeding our three year target, I am committed to ensuring that as many people in Northern Ireland as possible receive the money they are entitled to. This year, the average amount received by people benefiting from the uptake campaign is £65 per week, that’s £280 a month, money which is much needed in these difficult times. I am confident that, continuing our work with a number of partnership bodies, we can match these figures next year.”

The Minister also confirmed that the ‘Make the Call’ advertising campaign would return to screens in January 2016.

He added: “I urge people in all circumstances to ‘Make the Call’, including older people and those caring for them, to find out if they are entitled to any additional benefits. The ‘Make the Call’ freephone advice line is confidential and manned by experienced and friendly advisors who can provide information about benefits people may be entitled to, and arrange help with making a claim for benefit where it is required. Make the Call on 0800 232 1271.”

Commenting on the success of the Department’s Benefit Uptake Programme, the Chief Executive Officer of the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Evelyn Hoy said: “I am delighted by the success of the Department for Social Development’s 2014/15 Benefit Uptake Programme. The millions of pounds generated in extra money throughout the year will make a real difference to people’s lives, and in particular to the many older people and their carers who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, and who will have directly benefited from this programme.”

For more information on benefit uptake programmes, visit: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/external link

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