Headlines: March 25th, 2004

Pensioners in some of England’s poorest rural areas will be given extra encouragement to take up benefits and allowances through a new one and a quarter million pound fund launched by the Rural Affairs minister Alun Michael. The money will be available over the next two years for a range of organisations.The fund is being launched jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions, whose Partnership Fund tackles social exclusion nationally among older people. Defra’s contribution will be targeted at the most deprived parts of rural England, including East Lindsay in Lincolnshire, Bolsover in Derbyshire, Penwith and Kerrier in Cornwall, the Copeland district of Cumbria and Wear Valley in County Durham.

The money will be available to a range of voluntary and community organisations, with a view to helping them reach eligible older people to encourage them to claim benefits including pension credit, attendance allowance, carers allowance and council tax benefit. Eligible applications will be considered through a new assessment process.

Alun Michael said a lot of work had been focussed in urban areas but there were people living in poverty within rural areas, though the numbers were smaller. “Voluntary organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Help the Aged and many others have an important part to play in getting our message across – that there is help available if people are able to come forward and claim what is rightly theirs,” he said.