Benefit Uptake Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 27th April 2015.

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Photo of Adrian McQuillan Adrian McQuillan DUP 3:15 pm, 27th April 2015

T7. Mr McQuillan asked the Minister for Social Development how much the benefit uptake programme generated last year. (AQT 2417/11-15)

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Member for the question. I am committed to promoting the uptake of benefits in an effort to tackle poverty and improve life for those who are most vulnerable. In 2013-14, over 4,000 people, many of them older people, gained £14·2 million in new and additional benefits. In fact, since 2005, benefit uptake work has generated over £81 million in additional income for people in Northern Ireland. This is additional income for people in Northern Ireland, and I think that that proves the worth of the programme. I am committed to ensuring that it is continued in the future.

Photo of Adrian McQuillan Adrian McQuillan DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer, and I think that £81 million over five years is a big turnaround. Minister, how does your Department promote the uptake of benefits?

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Member for his supplementary question. My Department has four separate but complementary strands of activity to generate additional benefits for harder-to-reach groups of people. They include writing to over 25,000 individuals identified from benefit data sets, encouraging them to have a full benefit entitlement check and to ensure that they are not missing out on any benefit supports or services to which they may be entitled. Make the Call is the regional advertising and promotion campaign and is endorsed by the Commissioner for Older People. Community outreach officers based throughout Northern Ireland deliver benefit uptake activity by visiting vulnerable claimants in their own home, carrying out benefit entitlement checks and assisting with claims and form-filling. They also provide a valuable service to communities by delivering community promotional events and clinics, providing redundancy support to business and individuals and taking referrals from a wider range of partners. There is also the innovation fund and partnership working with Atlantic Philanthropies, and my Department funded community-based organisations to trial new innovative approaches to improving benefit uptake. Full evaluation of this approach will also be available in the summer of 2015. I trust that that gives the Member some overview of the ways in which we endeavour to promote the uptake of benefits via writing to people, Make the Call and community outreach officers.