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Benefits confusion hits prescriptions

PUBLISHED: 22:00 27 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

THOUSANDS of people on low incomes in Suffolk may be missing out on free prescriptions because of confusion over changes to the benefits system.

An annual cost of living increase this month has led to many people on incapacity benefit losing the income support top-up that also entitled them to free prescriptions.

THOUSANDS of people on low incomes in Suffolk may be missing out on free prescriptions because of confusion over changes to the benefits system.

An annual cost of living increase this month has led to many people on incapacity benefit losing the income support top-up that also entitled them to free prescriptions.

They then had to face meeting the full cost of all their prescriptions out of their benefit income.

However, after the Citizens Advice Bureau raised concerns over the issue, new rules have been rushed through to protect people in this position.

As a result, anyone whose weekly income is no more than £3.20 above income support levels is now entitled to free prescriptions but this will no longer happen automatically, so those affected have to make a claim.

People affected will have to complete a form HC1, available from local benefit offices, NHS hospitals, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, and this will enable them to get a certificate exempting them from payment.

Ian Burnett, Ipswich CAB manager, said: "We already know that around 750,000 people a year go without prescriptions because they cannot afford the cost, so it's great news the government has acted so promptly to avoid what would otherwise have been a double whammy for a lot of sick and disabled people.

"But we are worried that many of those people will not realise that under the new rules, they will now have to actively make a claim to get them."

He added: "We would strongly urge anyone unsure of their position to contact us for advice."

For further information, please call 01473 219770.

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