Older people in Portsmouth fail to claim millions

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PENSIONERS in Portsmouth are failing to claim millions of pounds in benefits they are entitled to.

Research by the council and the Department for Work & Pensions has estimated that older people in the city missed out on almost £4m last year.

Council officers think this could be because pensioners do not realise how much they could claim and don’t know where to find out.

Information and advice manager for Age UK Portsmouth Catherine Smith said she tells everyone she speaks to that they should see if they can claim more.

She said: ‘Many of the people who we see think they won’t be entitled to anything, and a large part of the rest are put off by the thought of filling in lots of forms.

‘Others think because they have some savings or own their own homes they won’t be able to claim, which isn’t true at all.

‘We have a team here who will provide the forms and go though them with people.

‘It’s always worth doing, because some benefits can have a knock-on effect and lead to others increasing.’

President of the Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association Muriel Deacon said she thought more should be done to raise awareness of what is on offer.

‘I don’t think it would be beyond the council to perhaps send something round to the city’s pensioners to jog their memories,’ she said.

‘Or even use the resources they have available like Flagship, the Big Screen in Guildhall Square, or even by working with organisations like ours.

‘Part of the problem is the forms feel very invasive to a lot of people and they need to be reassured the information won’t be used in other ways.

‘But it’s so important especially now because money is so short for older people.’

Lib Dem councillor Michael Andrewes has conducted a review of poverty in the city and said educating people so they know what benefits are available was crucial.

He said: ‘The council needs to do more of what it is doing already – working with groups like the Portsmouth Pensioners and trying to raise awareness of all the information on our website and available through the helpdesk.

‘It is often those who don’t know what they are entitled to who could get more.’

Call Age UK on (023) 9286 2121, the city helpdesk on (023) 9283 4092 or visit portsmouth.gov.uk.