Service to help elderly claim tax and benfits

By Patricia Pereira

The Scottish Government is about to spend £700.000 on an advice service for the elderly who live in the most impoverished areas of Clackmannanshire, West Lothian and North Lanarkshire.

The new Older People’s Advice Service (OPAS) could benefit up to 22,000 people and will be especially focused on those above 60 years old, with health problems, homebound or living in remote areas.

The main objectives of this initiative is to fight against poverty and financial exclusion by improving take-up of older people’s benefits.

Alex Neil, the minister for housing and communities, said: “It is important in the current economic climate that people claim the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled. These are challenging economic times for communities across Scotland and older people can frequently feel stressed and isolated.

Older people are one of the most vulnerable groups in relation to low take up rates, and often need the most support in taking the steps to receiving benefits and tax credits.”

The service will be run by Linkwide, a charitable subsidiary company within the Link Group a Scottish-based housing association which owns more than 8,000 residential properties in 22 of Scotland’s local authority areas.

Link Group had already delivered a similar service in other areas across Scotland called the Older Persons Advice Project (OPAP), raising more than £2 million in unclaimed benefit income since it was first launched in 2005.

Craig Sanderson, the Link Group Chief Executive, said: “The success of OPAP clearly demonstrates the need for tailored money and welfare advice services for the over 60s. We are pleased to have received the support of the Scottish Government to enable us to work with those most in need in the three pilot areas.”