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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 15:12 GMT
Pensioners' forms to be simplified
Pensioner
Many pensioners find the forms too complicated
The government has announced a simplification of the forms that Britain's poorest pensioners need to fill out to receive their minimum income guarantee.

The present form, which is 40 pages long and asks pensioners if they are pregnant, has been condemned as demeaning and complicated.

The Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling, wants to make it more straightforward for older people to claim all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling
Alistair Darling: "Take the strain out of the claim"
He told a conference on Tuesday: "The existing claim form is unnecessarily long and too complicated.

"There is no reason why it should be so, and I have told my department to cut it down to size. I want to include the questions we really need to ask.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for pensioners to claim every penny they are entitled to - to take the strain out of making a claim."

He has also unveiled plans for a new one-stop shop for relevant benefits and health and housing matters.

Low claims rate

The form will be reduced to just 10 pages and will not include questions on pregnancy.

The minimum income guarantee means that from April the poorest pensioners will be able to top up their basic state pension to 92.15 a week, 140.55 for a couple.

Dame Thora Hird
Dame Thora Hird has fronted a government campaign
However, the forms involved have been so complicated that only 80,000 of the 500,000 pensioners entitled to claim the extra money have done so.

This is despite an expensive government television campaign, fronted by actress Dame Thora Hird, to remind pensioners of their right to claim the benefit.

The government also set up a helpline last April.

Charity Age Concern said the government should scrap the minimum income guarantee and simply replace it with an enhanced basic state pension.

Mr Darling also promised a new housing strategy to help older people into suitable housing.

There will also be incentives for transport operators to make life easier for pensioners.

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Pensioners top Brown's budget plans
02 Nov 00 | Pre budget report
Chasing the grey vote
29 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Elderly 'missing out' on benefits
15 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Pensions error to cost millions
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