Govt considering internal comms review to improve Pension Credit uptake

Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, has confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is considering an internal review of communications in an effort to improve Pension Credit awareness, as well as a potential agreement with the BBC.

In response to an oral question in Parliament, which asked what steps were being taken to increase Pension Credit uptake via awareness campaigns, Opperman also highlighted the the work done via the Pension Credit campaign launched by the government in 2020.

He stated: “In February last year, we launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of pension credit and have continued to make that case throughout the past year, notwithstanding the difficulties of the pandemic.

“The DWP is currently considering an internal review of communication products to identify further improvements in our messaging, with many more aspects to be pursued this year.”

MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, queried further however, highlighting that the Pension Credit uptake has remained below 65 per cent since 2010.

Furthermore, he noted that whilst an awareness campaign was launched with "good intentions", it was only 12 weeks long, and occurred partly during the pandemic.

He continued: “Does [the minister] agree with me, and others, including the charity Independent Age, that rather than being one-off events, such awareness campaigns should be part of a wider long-term strategy and take advantage of new innovations and channels?”

In response to this follow up, Opperman confirmed that the government plans to use existing initiatives to promote Pension Credit further, also confirming that there have been discussions around a partnership with the BBC.

He stated: “We plan to use existing government letters on the attendance allowance and state pension, and other letters that the government send out, to help to promote Pension Credit.

“We are also discussing a joint working arrangement with the BBC. We continue to make all efforts to try to promote Pension Credit.”

The commitment to a review has been highlighted as a positive step by the charity aforementioned by Rosindell, Independent Age, although it emphasised that the government must work with key stakeholders “urgently” to create a broader action plan to improve Pension Credit uptake.

Independent Age chief executive, Deborah Alsina, said: “While the commitment from the minister to review communications around Pension Credit is a positive step, it is vital that this is just one part of a publicly available action plan to improve take-up.

“Our research has shown that if the number of people receiving Pension Credit increased from 61 per cent to 100 per cent, almost 450,000 pensioners could be lifted out of poverty.

“The government must work alongside key stakeholders to urgently create an action plan that includes awareness campaigns, a full communications strategy, and new, high quality, up-to-date research into who is not claiming pension credit and why, so we can identify and overcome any barriers.

“By working to ensure that everyone who is entitled to pension credit does receive it, the government has the opportunity to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of older people.”

Rosindell added: "I'm pleased to hear that the DWP is looking at how to better improve government communications on Pension Credit.

“This is money that many pensioners are entitled to but are often unaware of. I look forward to seeing the department's plans on this matter in the coming months."

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