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TX: 10.06.04 – YOU & YOURS JOINS FORCES WITH BENEFIT ADVISORS TO DIRECT BENEFITS TO THOSE WHO NEED THEM

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY



THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

BARCLAY
More than a billion pounds of welfare benefits are left unclaimed each year while the people who should be getting the money struggle to make ends meet. One of the benefits most often missed is attendance allowance, for people 65 or over who need extra care because of illness or disability. But many people who could claim simply assume that the benefit system has nothing to do with them. To counteract that impression You and Yours joined forces with the housing charity - Housing 21 - to try and track down some of those people who are missing out on money that's rightfully theirs. Peter White went with two of the charity's benefits advisors to Kipling Court - a complex in Bradford which provides sheltered accommodation for around 80 households. It proved to be a visit that made a difference to many of the residents' lives.

ACTUALITY
ROBERTSHAW
Okay, good morning everybody. As Margaret said thank you all for coming. So we're here this morning to talk to you very briefly about the benefit system. The benefit system is quite a complex and complicated system and as a result of that people are often missing out on what is rightfully theirs.

WHITE
John Robertshaw and his colleague Lynne Davey, trying to win the confidence of the residents of Kipling Court. Letters were sent to all 80 or so residents in advance of this visit offering them the opportunity to discuss their finances with a view to finding out whether they were getting everything they were entitled to. Around half have decided to come along, some are too frail to attend, some just don't fancy discussing their money with a stranger. But many who are there welcome the opportunity of getting some extra cash if it's theirs by right.

VOX POPS
I have got savings which I get invested to give me extra income every week to top my pension up. But when I've paid my rent and my rates out of it I haven't got a right lot left. And I didn't think really that I was entitled to anymore money.

I'm 87. If it wasn't for my daughter and my son I wouldn't apply for anything because they frighten me - the forms.

WHITE
The importance of attendance allowance is not simply its own monetary value - around £39 a week at the lower rate, £58 a week at the higher - but the fact that it's often the trigger for getting other benefits as well. Pension tax credits help with your council tax and housing benefit. So that making sure people are entitled to attendance allowance can mean benefit increases of well over a hundred pounds a week.

ACTUALITY
ROBERTSHAW
Current estimations are that between 40-60% under claim of attendance allowance. There are a couple of reasons why people miss out. The first reason is that people don't often know that they're entitled to attendance allowance. And the second reasons is the claim form. The claim form can be quite daunting and can put people off claiming. Those of you that have seen attendance allowance claim forms will know what I'm talking about. Now it is important to say they were redesigned last year, it's still 20 pages long and it's 20 A4 pages.

WHITE
And John Robertshaw well knows the value of convincing people that if others are getting benefits why shouldn't they.

ACTUALITY
ROBERTSHAW
Now Lynne and I have been doing this job for about the last two years. And in the last two years Lynne and I have actually generated for Housing 21 tenants a million and a half pounds. So it shows what's out there. All we're doing is offering advice and information to make sure you get what you're entitled to.

WHITE
People like Shirley Frankish, whose food cupboards are now a good deal better stocked following a visit from Lynne Davey. This led to her being able to claim an extra £57 a week attendants allowance. Shirley is diabetic with eyesight problems arising from her condition. The extra money means she can now afford now comfortably the taxis she needs to go to and from hospital and she can now eat properly.

FRANKISH
Sugar free yoghurts, bread, cheese, pork chops, pieces of chicken, lettuce, celery, spring onions and tomatoes in that one. They keep telling me to keep my weight down and sugar levels low, it's hard when you're making do with bread or something like that. We like to eat the proper foods, which I couldn't afford before I got this money. I used to try and make things out of nothing really but I couldn't afford to buy good meat or anything like that, which I can do now.

WHITE
As for Murie Cheshire the £106 a week extra she gets, as the result of a boosted pension and attendance allowance, means she can now continue to run the car which allows her more independence.

CHESHIRE
I don't walk well, this is my biggest problem - to get in and out of buses and trains and things. I can manage but only just. I've got loads of grandchildren and great grandchildren, I love to see them, I like to visit them, they live in different parts of the country, I've got some friends still up in Scotland. This increased pension has made it possible for me to take these trips occasionally and go and see them without thinking - I'll have to do without this, I'll have to do without that.

WHITE
Meanwhile back at Kipling Court listening in the audience to John and Lynne's presentation have been Jim and Barbara Walton.

ACTUALITY
WHITE
You've heard the presentation, what was the bit of it that interested you?

BARBARA WALTON
Well we are interested because we are already claiming - what is the one?

JIM WALTON
Attendance allowance.

BARBARA WALTON
Attendance allowance - we're getting £38 a week for that but we're not sure whether we're entitled to anything or not. If we are entitled to something we'd be very glad of it but if not we're quite content.

WHITE
So are you going to have a chat with Lynne later on about your circumstances?

BARBARA WALTON
Yes, she's coming to see us at one o'clock.

WHITE
Would you mind if I came along as well?

BARBARA WALTON
I wouldn't mind at all no.

JIM WALTON
Don't mind at all.

BARBARA WALTON
It's quite alright.


JIM WALTON
Hello, come in.

BARBARA WALTON
Hello.

JIM WALTON
Hello, nice to see you.

LYNNE DAVEY
Okay, so what I'll do first of all for you is to have a look at your general income, savings and out goings and take down those details, do a quick calculation to see whether or not there's anything that you are entitled to that you're not already getting. You've given me some details here, I've got your retirement pension details …

WHITE
As they talk it seems the key to whether Barbara is entitled to anymore money in her own right is whether she can get higher rate rather than lower rate attendance allowance.

ACTUALITY
LYNNE DAVEY
It depends on whether or not you get up at night and if you do how often you're having to get up at night. So if you have to get up at night to go to the loo and you're doing that more than once a night then it is a distinct possibility that you would qualify for the higher rate attendance allowance.

BARBARA WALTON
Well I do have to get up more than - two or three times.

LYNNE DAVEY
Two or three times a night.

BARBARA WALTON
Yes.

LYNNE DAVEY
So I think it would be worthwhile…

WHITE
But it also emerges that Mr Walton too might be entitled to attendance allowance, something which has never even been considered until now. It only really emerges as Lynne Davey asks her probing questions.

ACTUALITY
BARBARA WALTON
Well my husband he has slight epileptic [indistinct word], you know, and so he gets disturbed sometimes and usually it's when he's asleep in bed.

LYNNE DAVEY
Well Mr Walton are you taking medication for your epilepsy.

JIM DAVEY
I am love yes, shall I bring it to you let you see it?

LYNNE DAVEY
Oh no, no that doesn't matter at the moment but I'm thinking perhaps you may be entitled to attendance allowance in your own right. And what happens when you have one of these episodes.

JIM DAVEY
I don't know.

BARBARA DAVEY
He doesn't know a thing.

JIM DAVEY
I don't know a thing, I just fade away.

BARBARA DAVEY
He just makes a funny noise and I can't wake him up at all.

LYNNE DAVEY
How long does this last?

BARBARA DAVEY
And it lasts about quarter of an hour probably at the moment.

LYNNE DAVEY
Quite a long time. And how often do you think this is happening?

BARBARA DAVEY
Well it hasn't happened for a long time, until about a fortnight ago.

WHITE
Lynne also discovers that both the Waltons have difficulty with using a conventional shower fitted over the bath, something else which is often a factor in entitlement to attendance allowance. By the end of the interview Lynne Davey has quite a shopping list of things to attend to.

ACTUALITY
LYNNE DAVEY
So I can set the wheels in motion for your attendance allowance to be increased. I can ask for a blue badge application to be sent out and I can help you with that claim form. I can do a new claim for attendance allowance for you Mr Walton and then if that is awarded we can do a claim for pension credit to get the additional amount. So the potential is that you could be better off by probably about £140 a week.

WHITE
It's a startling figure, sure enough, but the Waltons took the news in their stride. Up until now they've been quite content to tailor their pleasures to their modest income.

BARBARA WALTON
In the summer we just sit out, we're just content to sit out.

JIM WALTON
If we get to Shipley, which is not very far from here, in the sunshine and we can sit on the seats, sit on the seats or go into Marks and Spencer just do a little bit of shopping and sit out and then come back by taxi.

WHITE
It's clearly a happy ending for the Waltons, although it's something they would never have looked for had they not been prompted.

BARBARA WALTON
We were quite content, we could manage.

JIM WALTON
We are living aren't we, we are living - we're not penniless. It's been really wonderful being in touch with you and listening to what you've had to say to us because quite frankly I would have thought - I don't understand why I'm bothering going to find out anything at all about it.

BARCLAY
Jim and Barbara Walton talking to Peter. Tomorrow we'll be finding out just how much better off they and some of the other residents in Kipling Court actually are after that one visit and what difference the money's making to their lives. And you can find out more about the benefits which tend to go unclaimed and just who is likely to be eligible on our website. And if you live in a community - sheltered or otherwise - and would welcome a visit from Peter and his advisors you can call us on 0800 044 044, e-mail us via the website - bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours or write to us at Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA.


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