Scottish Government
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Older people's advice service

A new welfare rights advice service for older people, backed by £700,000 from the Scottish Government, could benefit up to 22,000 people, it was announced yesterday.

The Older People's Advice Service (OPAS) will target over 60s in the most deprived parts of Clackmannanshire, West Lothian and North Lanarkshire.

The project aims to combat poverty and financial exclusion by improving take-up of older people's benefits with particular emphasis on clients who have health problems, are housebound, or who live in remote areas.

The new service is based on the success of the Older Persons Advice Project (OPAP), launched in 2005, which has raised more than £2 million in unclaimed benefit income.

Glasgow couple Robert and Barbara McCaw received help from OPAP to claim disability benefits that have increased their income by more than £12,000 a year.

Advice is delivered face-to-face in the person's own home, engaging with those people that do not access the internet or want to discuss these issues on the telephone.

Linkwide, a charitable subsidiary company within the Link Group, will deliver the service.

Housing and Communities Minister, Alex Neil said:

"These are challenging economic times for communities across Scotland and older people can frequently feel stressed and isolated.

"It is important in the current economic climate that people claim the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled.

"Older people are one of the most vulnerable groups in relation to low take up rates, and often need the most support in taking the steps to receiving benefits and tax credits.

"Linkwide has a proven track record of delivering expert, impartial advice which will ensure that this funding reaches those most in need."

Link Group Chief Executive Craig Sanderson said:

"The success of OPAP clearly demonstrates the need for tailored money and welfare advice services for the over 60s. We are pleased to have received the support of the Scottish Government to enable us to work with those most in need in the three pilot areas.

"I have been repeatedly impressed by many fantastic OPAP success stories, such as that of the Glasgow couple whose benefit income increased by more than 12,000 pounds a year.

"I am confident that the new service will achieve similar results, providing an important lifeline to many older people in the three pilot areas."

The Scottish Government has provided £700,000 of funding to Link group housing association to deliver an Older People's Advice Service (OPAS).

Link Group is a Scottish-based housing association forming a group of social enterprises delivering housing for rent and for sale, community regeneration, wider action, factoring and support and care. It owns or manages more than 8,000 residential properties in 22 of Scotland's local authority areas.

Linkwide is a charitable subsidiary company within the Link Group with a responsibility for development and regeneration. Through its work it aims to promote social inclusion amongst the tenants and communities served by Link, through services and projects tackling issues as diverse as poverty, unemployment, environmental problems, health inequalities and youth disorder.

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