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Pensioners: Social Security Benefits

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps her Department is taking to ensure that eligible pensioners receive their entitlement to (a) cold weather payments and (b) pension credit; and if she will make a statement. (319055)

The Government are committed to helping vulnerable customers to heat their homes during the cold weather, so we are continuing cold weather payments. These provide £25 towards eligible customers' heating costs during each consecutive seven-day period of very cold weather. There is no need to claim as eligible customers are paid automatically when payments are triggered in their area.

External communications, including media and web interviews and briefings for welfare organisations, focus on reassuring customers that they will get payments and do not need to make a claim. An online tool is available on the Directgov website where people can find out about eligibility and whether payments have been triggered in their area. There is also a leaflet, ‘The Social Fund’ which provides information.

The Government are also committed to reducing pensioner poverty and works hard to ensure pensioners are aware of pension credit. The claims process has been simplified and since November 2008 telephone claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit can be forwarded directly to the local authority.

Targeted take-up campaigns continue in selected regions to raise awareness and to encourage customers to apply. The campaign uses a range or methods including targeted direct mail, supported by sustained media coverage as well as community advertising.

When contacted, customer advisers in the Pension, Disability and Carers Service discuss pension credit with those who may be eligible and it also conducts around 13,000 home visits a week for vulnerable customers ensuring they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.

Joint Working Partnerships have been established with all 203 primary-tier local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. These enable the Pension, Disability and Carers Service, local authorities and the voluntary sector to provide a single point of access to social care and benefit entitlement.