Elderly not claiming benefit

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John McCallister, MLA, Independent Unionist for South Down, has voiced his concerned at the low uptake of the Lone Pensioner Allowance in his constituency.

His concerns come as the marked differences between constituencies highlight how little those living alone and aged over 70 receive in rates relief in South Down compared to the other constituencies in Northern Ireland.

Between April 2015 and the 1st January 2016, only 136 people aged 70 and over who live alone applied successfully for the 20 per cent reduction in their rates bill.

This is in comparison with the figure of 2,323 who successfully applied for the Lone Pensioner Allowance in the more affluent North Down in 2015, and 1,599 successful applications in East Antrim over a comparable period.

“People aged 70 and over, particularly those who live alone, are traditionally a difficult group of people to reach and keep informed,” he said.

“Yet they are also the most vulnerable and can often need considerable financial help.

“A 20 per cent reduction in a rates bill would be a huge help, yet it seems most of those aged 70 and over in South Down are simply not aware of the support that could be given.

“Awareness and promotion of the Lone Pensioner Allowance is not consistent across Northern Ireland.

“I would urge all who are eligible, or who may have a family member who is eligible for the Allowance, to apply.

“I would be very happy to help anybody looking to take advantage of the Lone Pensioner Allowance - or a family member on their behalf – and urge anyone to contact my constituency office in this regard.

“My first priority is to the constituents of South Down.

“I will also be following up on this issue with a letter to the Minister of Finance and Personal. This issue is too important to be left to the inconsistent promotion it has already received