Age UK’s Moneybus has helped older people claim more than £300,000 in health and income benefits. Sponsored by Legal and General, the Moneybus visited English regions with the highest number of older people that are eligible for financial benefits, but haven’t claimed – Cheshire, Leeds, East Riding, Bradford and District, Country Durham, Northumberland and Wiltshire. Pippa Webster, who manages Age UK Salisbury’s Information and Advice department, tell us about her experience on the bus.
When the Moneybus came to Salisbury at the beginning of October, I spent the day giving advice to all those who climbed aboard. The organisation of the event and the Age UK volunteers who came as support were absolutely fantastic – giving away 950 goody bags and encouraging more than 50 people to come into the bus to discuss the benefits they might be entitled to.
Although it was a bit of a tight squeeze at times, it was remarkable how many older people came along to see us who weren’t at all perturbed at discussing their financial situation with us on a bus!
South Wiltshire is very rural and reaching people living in surrounding villages has always been a challenge, especially when it’s to discuss benefit entitlement. Tuesday is market day in Salisbury and attracts a large number of people from the outlying villages – people who normally only come into the town once a week to do their shopping. The market square proved to be the ideal location. It was visible, accessible and people could talk to someone immediately about their circumstances and with many, we were able to give an immediate answer.
Getting the message across to older people who have never claimed anything is one of our biggest challenges – on the surface, Salisbury appears to be an affluent area, but the reality is that there is underlying poverty. The Moneybus gave some of those people the opportunity to discuss their financial situation and by doing so we identified over £73,000 of previously unclaimed benefits.
Almost all of the people I spoke to were doubtful that they would be entitled to anything, so the satisfaction of showing them that wasn’t the case was great. Their surprise and gratitude were hugely rewarding. I was thrilled that we identified such a large amount of previously unclaimed benefits that could make such a difference to so many people. We have already made numerous follow-up calls and visits to ensure that those benefits become a reality.
Of all the More Money in Your Pocket campaign events that we have held over the last two years, the Moneybus in Salisbury Market Square has been the most successful. Older people going about their day-to-day activities could come along and speak to someone there and then and I think that’s what made it so effective. It was fantastic to see such a positive response to the campaign.
Last year, Age UK helped 500,000 people put £120million back in their pockets through free benefits information and advice. This year, we will continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from claiming, in particular older people not realising that they are eligible for some additional income. For more information, please visit http://www.ageuk.org.uk/moremoney