Old folk being hit by red tape, says campaigner

Douglas Sim
Douglas Sim

ELDERLY people are finding it hard to make ends meet because of red tape causing difficulties in claiming benefits to which they are entitled.

Douglas Sim, of Holbeach Seniors’ Link, is calling on the Government and benefit organisations to make the system easier.

He said: “Many people in need are not aware of who to contact for help. Even if they do, it can be daunting to navigate various offices or forms.

“The result is that many who are in need do not know what help is available to them or do not pursue it as it is perceived as too difficult.

“Another common reason is that many are too embarrassed to try to find their way through the officialdom that protects the granting of these various forms of help.”

His comments follow news that some providers have raised energy bills by up to 18 per cent and more are likely to follow suit – leaving many people on low incomes facing debt and serious hardship.

He fears elderly people will be forced to turn off heating, risking their health, because they can’t afford fuel bills.

Mr Sim says that last winter he spoke to some people who had tried to exist by heating just one room with a single bar electric fire or who had to be frugal with their shopping.

He said: “We have all heard stories of the less well off, especially pensioners and those living alone, who have found their meagre funds are stretched beyond breaking point because of the dual necessity of balancing the two basic requirement of living – trying to keep warm and getting enough to eat to stay alive and healthy.

“Many voluntary organisations such as Age UK try to help those who approach them.

“But I feel it is necessary for the rules of qualifying to be simplified and made clearer and for the application forms to be more straightforward.

“The Government must realise that with the horrific increase in living costs more accurate assessments must be made of need, taking into account the health needs and monetary requirements of each applicant – how well does their income cover their basic needs?”