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New LSE research reveals older people could be losing up to £50,000 in benefits

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New research led by Tom Sefton, research fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE, for the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership's winter deaths campaign, reveals individual pensioners could be losing up to £50,000 in benefits over a lifetime by not claiming their entitlements.

These benefits currently sit in the Government's pot of £4.5 billion unclaimed benefits for older people, but one in three pensioners are not aware of who to turn to for help and advice on how to access these entitlements, which could amount to between £5,000 and £50,000 per individual over a lifetime.

The new research supports the Partnership's call for the Government to end fuel poverty and save lives in winter by introducing the automatic payment of benefits and investing more in face-to-face benefits advice programmes. It finds that around 50 per cent of those eligible for additional benefits could receive enough financial support to cover all their heating costs which would lift them out of fuel poverty.

The research also shows that for older people face-to-face advice services are most effective. Evidence from the face-to-face British Gas Help the Aged Benefits Advice Programme shows that one in five older people who accessed the projects were found to be eligible for around £50 per week in additional benefits - around 66 per cent more in cash than a similar benefits service that provides advice over the phone. Additionally, as 80 per cent of the benefits identified through the British Gas Help the Aged Benefits Advice Programme are disability entitlements, the study strongly suggests that face-to-face benefits advice is needed to ensure older people with disabilities are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.

British Gas Help the Aged Partnership spokesperson Anna Pearson explains: 'Recent research by the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership reveals that over one million older people cut back on food to cover their heating costs. If the Government is serious about meeting its fuel poverty commitment it must stop gambling with the lives of older people in winter and recognise its current strategy for delivering benefits is completely off the mark'.

Ends

For more information, please contact: Melina Nicholson, PR Account Manager, Help the Aged, on 020 7843 1562, or by emailing Melina.Nicholson@helptheaged.org.uk|

Notes for editors:

The British Gas Help the Aged Partnership (http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb/AdviceSupport/HealthAdvice/HealthyAgeing/Stay|
WarmInWinter/as_bghtapart_131107.htm|)
Since the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership began campaigning on the issue of avoidable winter deaths, the Government has made some progress in tackling the underlying issues, including a promise to increase investment in schemes such as Warm Front by £300 million over three years. The Government will have spent £1billion on its heating and insulation scheme Warm Front by 2010. The scheme has been reformed recently so that now all eligible households receive assistance with the installation of better central heating systems, insulation and energy efficiency measures.

In addition to highlighting the disgrace of the UK's winter deaths through campaigning, the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership continues to deliver practical advice and support. In 2003 the Partnership set up a Benefits Advice Programme, which now runs in 26 locations throughout the UK, helping older people on low incomes or poor health access their benefits. During the campaign four new Benefits Advice Programmes will be launched in Stevenage, North Greenwich and North Bexley, Luton and Thanet and open days will be held at existing Programmes in Neath, North Lincolnshire and Glasgow.

About Help the Aged (http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb|)
Help the Aged is the charity fighting to free disadvantaged older people in the UK and overseas from poverty, isolation and neglect. It campaigns to raise public awareness of the issues affecting older people and to bring about policy change. The charity delivers a range of services including information and advice, home support and help in difficult times that are supported by its fundraising activities and paid for services. Help the Aged also funds vital research into the health issues and experiences of older people to improve the quality of later life.

Press Cuttings

Press Association (1 December)
Pensioners urged to claim benefits
Pensioners could be losing up to £50,000 in benefits over their lifetime by not claiming all their entitlements, according to a new report. The benefits are sitting in a Government pot of £4.5 billion of unclaimed benefits for older people, research carried out by the London School of Economics for British Gas and Help the Aged showed.

Channel 4 News (30 November)
Pensioners urged to claim benefits
Pensioners could be losing up to £50,000 in benefits over their lifetime by not claiming all their entitlements, according to a new report. The benefits are sitting in a Government pot of £4.5 billion of unclaimed benefits for older people, research carried out by the London School of Economics for British Gas and Help the Aged showed.
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/business_money/pensioners+urged+|
to+claim+benefits/1121047|

Mirror (30 November)
Third of elderly miss out on life-saving benefits
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/money/city/2007/11/30/third-of-elderly-miss-out-|
on-life-saving-benefits-89520-20183117/|

Evening Standard (30 November)
OAPs lose £50,000 each in unclaimed benefits
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23423902-details/OAPs+lose+%C2%A350%2C000+each+in+unclaimed+benefits/article.do|

Daily Mail (30 November)
Unclaimed benefits cost elderly £4.5bn
(Source: Lexis)

3 December 2007

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