Benefits go unclaimed in Suffolk

MILLIONS of pounds worth of benefits could be going unclaimed today by people with disabilities in Suffolk.As reported in The Evening Star the majority of people with disabilities in the county face day-to-day struggles with cash, yet many of them are not claiming money that they are entitled to.

MILLIONS of pounds worth of benefits could be going unclaimed today by people with disabilities in Suffolk.

As reported in The Evening Star the majority of people with disabilities in the county face day-to-day struggles with cash, yet many of them are not claiming money that they are entitled to.

Linda Hoggarth, chairwoman of Suffolk disability charity Optua, which works in Mid Suffolk, Forest Heath and parts of Babergh, said: “Our advice and advocacy service regularly comes across people living in poverty and helps disabled people to recover benefits they are entitled to but have not been receiving, which can amount to significant sums a week.

“We also sometimes find they have been paying full council tax and other costs that they need not have paid.


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“Over the past three financial years we have helped clients claim back around £5million in unpaid benefits and we don't even cover the whole county.

“So there is also a big issue around people not realising what they are entitled to.”

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Lyn Eley, manager of the Disabled Advice Bureau in Ipswich, added: “We regularly raise more than £1million in extra income for our clients every year.

“Last year was in fact £1.3 million and we are expecting to at least match and probably exceed that again this financial year.”

The problem is so large that Optua is struggling to deal with all the requests for help it is getting.

Colin Poole, the charity's chief executive, said: “We need more staff just to keep up with the current demand; unfortunately there just isn't the funding to pay for it.

“The advice services are often run by disabled people who themselves have had to negotiate the benefits minefield. We often recruit volunteers with lots of personal experience of disability and knowledge on benefits.”

For an information guide for people with disabilities call 01473 836777 or visit www.dialnet.f2s.com/sdig.

Are you facing financial struggles as a result of a disability? Have you spent years not claiming the benefits you should have? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Benefits available to people with disabilities

Disability Living Allowance (DLA): a benefit for people who need help getting around or looking after themselves because they are ill, disabled or terminally ill

Incapacity Benefit (IB): for people who can't work because of illness or disability

Attendance Allowance (AA): a tax-free benefit for people aged 65 or over who have an illness or disability and need help with personal care

There are also means tested benefits including Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Pension Credit.

There are some specialist benefits such as Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit which provide payments for people who have been disabled by an accident at work or have an illness related to their work

SOURCE: Optua

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