These latest figures are the result of work carried out by the Department to help people claim the social security benefits they are entitled to.
The £37.1 million additional benefits is the highest amount ever raised in a single year since this work began in 2005 and equates to a 74% increase from 2016/17. It means the largest ever number of people across Northern Ireland – 7,765 – are better off by an average of £92 a week, the highest ever weekly increase.
Glynis Jones, Head of the Department’s ‘Make the Call’ Team explained: “The welfare system exists to support people during uncertain times. However, through our work we know that people don’t always realise what that can mean for their benefit entitlement and continue to struggle without getting the support and services to which they are entitled. Major life changes like taking on caring responsibilities, illness or disability, retirement or bereavement can all mean people may become entitled to a range of different benefits and supports or services. Through this work we are actively reaching thousands of people each year and every pound generated is improving someone’s life.”
The Department has a free and confidential dedicated telephone line which is available for people who feel they may be missing out on benefits, services or supports they’re entitled to. Advice and support is also available on benefits and other Government schemes such as the Blue Badge scheme, help with school meals, transport or uniform grants and hospital travel costs.
Glynis added: “The Make the Call service is promoted through direct mailings, advertising, and information events. My team also works collaboratively through effective partnerships with other departments, councils, primary care providers and the voluntary and community sector to connect people with the services and organisations that can make a real difference to their lives. In addition, community outreach workers located across Northern Ireland provide face to face support and assistance to those who need it.”
More advice on checking potential entitlements is available by ringing the ‘Make the Call’ Advice Line number on 0800 232 1271, or online at nidirect.