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CAB breaks benefits record again

SHETLAND’S Citizens Advice Bureau has once again broken its record for helping people claim benefit they did not know they were entitled to.

Last year the organisation generated an extra £1.04 million in benefit payments by helping people who were not claiming what they were due.

In the first nine months of this financial year the Lerwick CAB Office had already brought in more than £1 million in previously unclaimed benefits, thanks to the efforts of its two welfare rights workers.

CAB manager Les Irving said that academic research suggested every £1 in benefits generated £8.30 in the local economy, as people on benefits are more likely to spend their money in local shops.

“Our welfare rights project costs about £50,000 a year and you could say we’ve already put more than £8 million into the local economy,” he said.

Most of the unclaimed money is for disability and sickness benefit and Mr Irving put the increase down to the improved service.

“We now have two welfare rights officers instead of one and a half so we hoped there would be an upturn, and of course most of the claimants will receive that extra money for the rest of their lives.”

Shetland does well from attracting more benefits in other ways, as the greater the overall claim level the higher the islands rise up the deprivation index, which in turn brings in more government assistance.

“The formula for government funding says the more deprived an area the more money comes in, so the more successful we are in getting people on to benefits there is a spin off for Shetland,” Mr Irving said.

However he could not fully explain why the amount of unclaimed benefit they were able to access kept growing year on year.

“It is one of those jobs where you would think you were working yourself out of a job, but ever since 2001 when we had our first welfare rights officer we have increased our gain every year. It shows that there are still people out there not getting their benefits.”

The Lerwick CAB office is backing a national campaign by 27 national charities to force the government to improve take up of benefits and tax credits, after figures showed that more than £16 billion goes unclaimed every year.

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