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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps her Department has taken to reduce the number of pensioners not claiming pension credit for which they are eligible.
Maximising the take-up of benefits is crucial to tacking pensioner poverty. Since its introduction in October 2003 the number of pensioners in relative low income has reduced by around 500,000.
We want to increase take-up of pension credit and council tax benefit and are working hard to encourage those entitled but not yet claiming to do so.
In order to increase take-up of pension credit and council tax benefit we introduced further simplifications to the claims process so that pensioners can now claim state pension, pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit in one easy free phone call, without the need to sign and return any claim forms.
The Pension, Disability and Carers Service will continue to promote take-up of benefits by those entitled. It will continue to press forward with data matching to identify eligible non-recipients, home visits for vulnerable customers and ever closer working with partner organisations. We are rolling out a targeted take-up campaign across 20 regions where our insight suggests there are a high number of eligible non-recipients of pension credit. The approach involves local service teams working closely with national and local partners, both in planning and delivering the campaign to ensure we are using all available knowledge to deliver a highly effective take-up campaign.
The new campaign, launched in Sheffield and North Kent in January 2009, is designed to engage with the local pensioner population, using channels of communication and organisations that are likely to be familiar, for example WRVS, Mecca bingo, voluntary organisations. In some areas, for example the North East, the campaign will be extended to the wider region.
In addition, we are taking powers in the Welfare Reform Bill to allow us to pilot new approaches that make better use of the information Government already have available to it for this purpose.