Older people missing out on over £1million of unclaimed benefits in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Vulnerable older people in Suffolk are missing out on a million pounds worth of benefits they did not know they could claim.
That’s according to Tim Holder, development director at Suffolk Community Foundation and Nicky Willshere from the Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), both of whom are working to raise £120,000 for the Surviving Winter campaign.
So far more than £90,000 has been collected for the fund, which encourages people to donate their means-tested Winter Fuel Payment if they can afford to.
The cash is then reinvested to help heat the homes of 600 older residents across the county.
But the organisations, who also are working with the Warm Homes Healthy People project, now believe more can be done to protect the 25,000 older people living in deprivation across Suffolk.
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They believe more government funding, of an estimated £1million, is going unclaimed – because clients are not aware of what they are entitled to.
“We need to make sure that everybody entitled to help gets it,” said Mr Holder.
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“Older people need to be aware of the benefits they can get from the government.
“There are more things available which can help people through winter, including improvements to home insulation among other things.
He added: “There are 25,000 people in Suffolk living in deprivation, we know that and as much as it is not acceptable we need to do everything we can to help them.
“So as well as doubling the amount we collect for Surviving Winter from £60,000 to £120,000, we desperately want people to know there are more things we can help with – around £1million of government funding – that they are missing out on.”
Former boat builder Johannes Schreuder, 70, said receiving a Surviving Winter grant has “made the world of difference” to his life in Ipswich.
“It is so great because I can leave my heating on a little longer, especially with the snow that is supposed to come this week it helps me keep warm when I wouldn’t have been able to afford it before,” he said.
“It really has made the world of difference to me and I’m also able to keep my lights on when I walk in from the town which stops me having to walk on my own in the darkness.
“I also realised I am entitled to pension credit after speaking to the advice centre and I am so grateful for these benefits.
He added: “Without them I wouldn’t have the independence I now have.”
Ipswich CAB manager Ms Willshere said that more than 50% of the grant application forms received from the Surviving Winter campaign suggest clients are entitled to more benefits.
Some did not even know they existed.
“We have awarded the Surviving Winter grants and we are currently following up with these people to pursue claiming additional benefits they might be entitled to,” she added.
Carole Graceoni, who is 66 and from Carlton Colville, said she would “never have known” about the variety of benefits available if she had not been made aware of it by advisors.
“It’s great that these things are around like Surviving Winter and things otherwise I would not have known I could be helped,” she said.
“I now get an extra £100 a week to help me, and I’m on pension credit and get help for my disability.
“I had nerves removed from my leg and ear so keeping warm is essential, my heating is now able to run most of the time and it really has changed my life.
She added: “I would never have known if that letter had not come through the door telling me about the benefits I could claim.
“More people need to know about it in my opinion so they can be helped, I’m so appreciative of what has gone on, you know.”
Another lady, in her eighties and from Bury St Edmunds, wanted to remain anonymous.
But she said: “It is great to have the grant and I am very grateful. It helps with my heating and gives me the extra bit of money that I needed.
“I didn’t realise the money was available to me really so it’s good to know it is.”
For more information about the Surviving Winter campaign, visit suffolkcf.org.uk/give/survivingwinterappeal/