Pensioners: Social Security Benefits

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party, Glasgow East

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps the Government is taking to encourage the take up of benefits that remain unclaimed by pensioners each year.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Pensions Reform) and Minister (Yorkshire and the Humber)

Addressing pensioner poverty has been one of the Government's key priorities since 1997. The number of pensioners in relative low income has fallen from 2.9 million in 1998-99 to 2.1 million in 2006-07. Pensioners are less likely to be in poverty, as measured by relative incomes after housing costs are accounted for, than the population as a whole.

Maximising the take-up of benefits is crucial to tackling poverty levels. Since pension credit was introduced in 2003 the number of pensioners in relative low income has fallen by around 500,000.

We are making every effort to ensure that people are aware of and claim their entitlement.

We have simplified the claim process to make pension credit easier to claim. Customers no longer need to sign and return their pension credit claim forms, claims can be made entirely over the phone.

This autumn 2008, we are introducing a measure which will enable claims to housing benefit and council tax benefit made over the phone with pension credit to be forwarded directly to the local authority without the need for a signature—this is a significant simplification to the claim process and should benefit thousands of pensioners.

In February 2007, an additional question was introduced in the pension credit application process to identify relevant caring responsibilities in order to invite the customer, where appropriate, to claim carer's allowance using a new, shortened, claim pack specifically designed for people of pension age.

In addition we are using sophisticated data matching to identify eligible non- recipients, home visits for vulnerable customers, targeted local marketing and media campaigns and ever closer working with partner organisations.

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