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Calculate your benefits in the comfort of your own home, says Ritchie

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A comprehensive new online benefit calculator for Northern Ireland was today launched by Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie.

The first of its kind, the online benefit calculator caters for people of all ages - including those with disabilities and those with caring responsibilities - allowing them to calculate the benefits to which they may be entitled.

The service – which can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/benefits-adviserlink to external website is free of charge and will mean that customers can now estimate their own benefit entitlement with total anonymity, in the comfort of their own home, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Commenting on this new online innovation by the Social Security Agency, Margaret Ritchie said: “The online benefit calculator will suit our customers with a physical disability, those with a desire to remain anonymous, or those who cannot contact an office during working hours.

“People across Northern Ireland will now be able to find out what benefits they may be entitled to and receive an estimate as to how much they could be getting, all from the comfort of their own home.”

Previously customers would have had to either call into a Jobs and Benefits Office, or make a phone call to enquire about their benefit eligibility.

The new service will also cater for those without internet access as advice and support groups, as well as friends and relatives of those seeking benefits, will now be able to utilise the online service on the person’s behalf.

The Minister added: “In the run up to the festive period it is especially important that we are committed to promoting benefit uptake to ensure the people of Northern Ireland receive the financial assistance, and services, to which they are entitled”.

“The online benefit calculator is a vital tool in making sure that we achieve this.”

Local housewife, Liz Fletcher, 47, who has already used the online service, added her support for the new initiative.

She said: “I found it, did it and left feedback. It is very easy to use, great stuff, and much better than waiting on the phone or filling in endless forms.”

Mary McManus of the East Belfast Independent Advice Centre also voiced her support for the new online service.

She said: "We are delighted. The online benefit calculator is very user friendly, easy to use, and you don’t need a great knowledge of benefits to complete the estimate. We find it extremely good for going out on home visits, as the benefit information is kept up-to-date to stay in line with latest legislative changes.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Benefits Adviser Service is phase 1 of the Self Service Project (NI). The overarching objective of the project is to work closely with Strategic Partners (Department of Work and Pensions and nidirect) to provide an efficient Self Service capability that is attractive, easy to use and meets customers’ needs.

2. The Benefits Adviser Service provides potential eligibility information for up to 27 benefits and tax credits. These are as follows:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
  • Carer's Allowance (*)
  • Child Benefit (*)
  • Child Tax Credit (*)
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit (Rates) (*)
  • Housing Benefit (Rent) (*)
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support (*)
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution-based) (*)
  • Jobseeker's Allowance (Income-based) (*)
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Pension Credit (*)
  • State Pension
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • War Widow's or Widower's Pension
  • Widowed Parents Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit (*)

The service provides calculation and comparison for 11 of these 27 benefits (those benefits with a *)

3. We are providing Northern Ireland customers with the same level of service as customers in Great Britain who, through the Department of Work & Pensions, can access the same system via the Directgov website.

4. The system customises the Department of Work & Pensions functionality to reflect differences in Northern Ireland structures and administrative processes, and provides local signposting at an estimated cost of £51,000.

5. The Benefits Adviser System is not suitable for the following groups but will provide links out for further information for these groups:

  • Prisoners
  • Non-UK nationals
  • Students
  • Under 18 year olds
  • Those permanently in residential care or a nursing home.

6. The Benefits Adviser Service can be found at the following link on the nidirect website – www.nidirect.gov.uk/benefits-adviserlink to external website . nidirect is the new Government website designed for the citizen. The site holds a wide range of information from all Government departments arranged under easy-to-access themes and written in plain language. Visitors to the site can also carry out online transactions such as making an MOT appointment or apply for a passport.

7. For photographs or Media enquiries please contact the DSD Information Office on 028 90829078. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.