New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that almost half (48%) of low income households are not claiming the welfare benefits and tax credits they could be entitled to. This is despite the fact that a huge 87% of this group have seen no improvement to their financial situation over the last year.
The findings uncover some of the reasons why these low income households may not be claiming this support. Of those with children, two-fifths (40%) said they had been deterred from checking or claiming potential benefits entitlements because they did not think they would be eligible.
In addition, over a fifth (22%) of families said they were unsure of how or where to find out about this help, whilst one in six (16%) feel that recent welfare benefit changes have made it too difficult to apply. As a result, over two-thirds (68%) have not checked what welfare benefits they could be entitled to within the last year.
Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (65%) of families who don’t currently claim would not consider checking their benefits entitlements if their income dropped, and only 5% would turn to a charity for help. Yet almost a third (30%) would resort to cutting back on food, over a quarter (26%) said they would cut back on gas, electricity and other essentials, and over a fifth (21%) would borrow money from family or friends.
The research is released as Turn2us launches its 2016 Benefits Awareness Campaign to help more people in financial hardship to access the welfare support available to them. The charity is urging anyone in need to use its free and confidential Benefits Calculator at Turn2us.org.uk to see what they could be entitled to and how to make a claim. The website also features information on benefits and other help for a range of different circumstances including in-work and on a low income and expecting or bringing up a child.
The charity’s new research also investigates the impact of welfare benefits and tax credits on low income households who are currently claiming. 90% of families who claim say this extra support has had a positive financial impact. Nearly three-fifths (58%) say that the benefits have helped to pay for food, a half say they’ve helped towards energy and essential bills, whilst over a quarter (26%) say they have helped them in avoiding debt. In addition, a fifth (20%) reports that welfare support has helped their family to stay in work.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Shockingly around £15bn in welfare support still goes unclaimed every year*, and as our findings show, people often feel that benefits simply aren’t for them.
“Through our campaign, we want to show that financial hardship can happen for many different reasons and could affect anyone at any time in their lives. Welfare benefits exist to provide a vital source of support for people in need, including those who are in-work, and as our research highlights, these can make a positive difference in paying for basic life essentials. We would urge anyone struggling to visit our website today to check what support could be available.”
For more information about the campaign, please visit Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware