Vulnerable charged £25 for benefit advice

Doug Beattie
Doug Beattie

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has lambasted those who charge, often vulnerable people, for advice on how to claim benefits.

Mr Beattie said there appeared to be a growing economy on making money out of those who find it difficult to deal with the benefits’ bureaucracy.

The Upper Bann MLA said: “The benefits system is there to act as a safety net for people in need. It helps people out of work, in-work, the sick and those with long-term disabilities or illnesses.

“It is essential therefore that when people need advice, they receive it in a fair and proportionate manner. Over recent times however I have become increasingly concerned about a new off-shoot economy in the Upper Bann area in which individuals are charging significant sums of money for advice on filling out benefit forms.

“I believe people are being charged around £25 each time, and given that some of these people may already be struggling financially, this is often money they can ill-afford to be handing out.

“I would urge people not to pay for these form filling services. In some cases it could even lead to penalties, or even criminal convictions, if it is later found that any of the information on the forms was inaccurate or misleading.

“I would remind everyone that my office in Portadown has experienced and trained staff. They will assist anyone with a benefits issue from any background and from any part of the constituency.”