Programme for Government
Encouraging Benefit Uptake, a key priority for the Department since 2005, is now a key building block in the 2011-2015 Programme for Government under Priority 2: Creating Opportunities, Tackling Disadvantage and Improving Health and Wellbeing.
Although it is not a statutory obligation, the Department for Social Development has, in addition to its ongoing promotion of benefits through the provision of information, prioritised and allocated significant resource to the development of specific programmes for encouraging benefit uptake from 2005.
We also fund the independent advice sector to deliver a range of benefit information services; including benefit advice, advocacy and appeal representation to people across Northern Ireland. Annual funding allocated to this work in 2011/12 was around £3 million.
We have sought to ensure that linkages are made internally and with other government departments and agencies to maximise outcomes, particularly for pensioners and families.
Social Security Agency committment
Since 2005, more than £4.4 million has been invested in a range of evidence based approaches which have generated additional annual benefits and arrears of over £50 million for more than 15,000 people. In that time there has been a steady increase in uptake of means tested benefits by older people and a reduction in pensioner poverty levels on current relative and absolute measures.
Those groups identified from available research evidence as being most vulnerable to poverty and likely to have unclaimed entitlement have been targeted. Groups directly targeted have included older people (identified as being particularly vulnerable in all research), people living with disability or illness, carers and families.
The investment in benefit uptake activities supplements and adds value to the Agency’s “business as usual” awareness raising and provision of information. This includes the provision of a wide range of benefit specific publications; clear citizen friendly information on the NI Direct website; an online Benefit Advisor service through which people can carry out their own entitlement checks; and general assistance with advice and information, including full benefit entitlement checks delivered face to face through the network of local offices across Northern Ireland.
Benefit Uptake Programme
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