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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Guardians of the public purse?

The UK's National Audit Office says that thousands of Britain's poorest pensioners are missing out on benefits worth £1,000 a year.

The NAO says that the Department for Work and Pensions should try harder to get older people to claim their full entitlement and that continous changes in benefits criteria confuse elderly people.

The NAO estimated that between £930m and £1,860m in benefits went unclaimed by OAPs in 1999-2000 and that only 3 million of the 4.1 million entitled to pensions credit (benefit) claimed what was their right.

MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the House of Commons public accounts committee said that poor uptake... "is also a consequence of a lack of effort over the years by officialdom to make pensioners aware of their entitlements and to help and encourage them to find their way through the mind-numbing complexity of the benefits system."

The Conservative spokesman said that "The benefits system is now so complicated that take-up of benefits is at catastrophically low levels." Where as the Liberal Democrats have suggested that "The only way to ensure take-up is by delivering support through the basic state pension, which is claimed by all pensioners"...

Helpfully, the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Services Authority have produced a very useful Pensions Calculator