Elderly missing out on `top up' benefits

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The Independent Online
Nearly a million pensioners could be failing to claim their "top up" benefits, according to figures released yesterday.

The figures may also mark a 35 per cent increase in pensioners in the lowest income levels. The Government is unclear about the precise numbers who are entitled to benefits, which they are failing to claim, but its latest estimates suggest that the total number of pensioners failing to claim income support had risen from 710,000 to 955,000 by the end of 1994- 95.

It reinforced a campaign by Labour to put pressure on the Government to take statutory action to make more elderly people aware of the benefits that are unclaimed.

Harriet Harman, the shadow social security secretary, said the figures showed that the more pensioners were living in poverty because they were failing to claim the benefits to which they were entitled.

She urged all pensioners to write to the Government in support of Labour amendments to the Social Security Fraud Bill before its second reading in the Commons next Monday. The Bill gives the authorities the power to cross-check computer records of social security claimants to curb fraud. But Ms Harman is seeking to use the new powers to identify pensioners who are not claiming benefits.

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