AN advice service for people aged over 75 was launched in Darlington this week.

Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau has secured funding for a two-year project, aimed at giving benefits support to hard to reach members of the community. The cash for the scheme has come from a £13m National pension Service Partnership Fund, launched two weeks ago by Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks.

In partnership with doctors' surgeries, the bureau is aiming to track down people who would not normally access the service.

Acting manager Sue Stahl said: "We begin next week with the patients registered at Neasham Road surgery.

"Letters will be sent out inviting patients to contact Citizens Advice Bureau. Appointments can be arranged to suit the individual. This can be at the GP surgery, in the main bureau, over the phone or a home visit."

Older people may be entitled to Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance, and Council Tax Benefit, even if they have substantial savings.

Mrs Stahl said: "Far too many pensioners are living below the poverty line and half of all those eligible are still not receiving their fair share. "A quick chat with one of our experienced advisors could increase the weekly income considerably."

The bureau can be contacted on (01325) 256477 between 9am and noon weekdays.