Reading council today launched a benefit take up campaign, initially particularly aimed at pensioners.
With the poisonous narrative from certain politicians and some people in the media about ‘benefit scroungers’ and the idea that anyone who receives a benefit is somehow different or less worthy it’s easy to forget that actually many people, particularly people of pensionable age don’t actually take up their entitlements. This is wrong for many reasons. The first is of course that it leads to unnecessary poverty or hardship, when everyone would say that we should be ensuring that older people are able to enjoy a good standard of living.
But there are other reasons to encourage people to take up their entitlements, after all the extra money that is generated is likely to be largely spent locally boosting the local economy and it will also mean that people are better able to afford to look after themselves, keeping them healthy and active in their communities.
It's a shame that we have to to remind people that the welfare state is a good thing. It's about supporting people at different times in their lives boosting our welfare as a nation: we pay in when we’re working we get out when we are children (through child benefit), unemployed or a disability stops us working, and as we grow older.
There is a stigma in claiming benefits that needs to be tackled. Of course it’s not something to aspire to but there should be no shame in saying for example I’m a pensioner and I am claiming my entitlement. In fact it’s good common sense, not just for the individual but for their family, their local community and the local economy.
It's not a small difference it would make either - if Reading reflects the national picture there are 6,500 older people in Reading who are under-paid. If they all took up their entitlements it would mean literally hundreds of thousands of pounds more in our local economy - and that has got to be good for everyone in Reading.
This is a fairly soft/low key launch but watch out over the coming months as the council ramps up it’s work to tackle poverty.
Council press release:
READING'S over 60’s and their carers are being urged to check whether they can claim Council Tax Support, Pension Credit or Attendance Allowance.
Based on national rates of under-claiming, there may be up to 6,500 older people in Reading not claiming Pension Credit or Council Tax Support. If you are over 60, or care for someone who is, you may be missing out on money that you are entitled to.
Councillor Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Borough Council said:
“Reading is seen as a prosperous place that has weathered the recession, but we need to focus on those who are not prospering.
“At our ‘Tackling Poverty’ conference last year we pledged to organise a proactive and effective benefits take up campaign, particularly targeting older people who at the moment are missing out.
“Increased benefit take-up helps to reduce inequality, improve the local economy and eases the pressure on services dealing with long term poverty.
“By encouraging older people in particular to take up their benefits, we can help some of the most vulnerable members of the community.”
Reading Borough Council will be running a series of free advice sessions:
• Age UK Reading Pop-in, Civic Centre,, 9.30-11.30, advice session, 11.30-12.30 (drop in only)
• Older Peoples Working Group Meeting, Civic Centre,, advice session at (drop in only)
• New Directions, Archway Road, Caversham –(appointments only)
• Caversham Library, Church Street, Caversham –,
• Amersham Road Community Centre, Caversham –
There will be help and support on how to claim Council Tax Support Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance at the advice sessions. The campaign will be assessed with the view to extending its reach at a later date.
To find out if you are eligible for Council Tax Support, or to complete a claim, visit the online benefit calculator at becs.reading.gov.uk or phone 0118 937 3737.
To claim or find out more about Pension Credit, visit www.gov.uk/pension-credit or call 0800 99 1234
To claim or find out more about Attendance Allowance, visit www.gov.uk/attendance-
allowance or call 0345 605 6055.