New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that almost three-quarters (73%) of families who are claiming means-tested benefits are worried about future changes to the welfare system. Significant changes to the benefits and tax credits system are taking place over the next few years.
Worryingly, nearly two-thirds (63%) of claimants with children said they would feel more stressed about their financial situation if their benefits were to be cut or reduced, whilst over half (53%) fear they would have to cut back on food.
Furthermore, over two-fifths (45%) said they might struggle to pay their rent or mortgage, and over half (55%) are concerned they may get in to debt. Over one in two (54%) says they would struggle to provide for their children.
One of the research respondents said: “Without tax credits I would not be able to work as childcare costs alone take up my wages. I wouldn’t be able to afford rent and food.”
Families also expressed uncertainty over Universal Credit which is being introduced gradually to replace six means-tested benefits for working-age people. Over a third (35%) said they feel unsure about this new benefit because of negative stories they’ve heard in the media.
The new findings are released as part of the Turn2us Benefits Awareness Campaign, which aims to help people in financial hardship to access all the support available to them. The charity’s website – Turn2us.org.uk – has a free and confidential Benefits Calculator that reflects the latest welfare changes, so that anyone can check their current entitlements and how to make a claim.
The website also features information on benefits and other help for different circumstances, and a benefit changes timetable so that people can see if and when they might be affected by the changes taking place in 2016 and beyond.
The charity’s research further demonstrates how crucial welfare support is for those on lower incomes, with 90% of those with children saying it has had a positive financial impact. In addition, over two-fifths (43%) say it has helped them to remain independent, and nearly a third (31%) report it has relieved some or all of the stress they felt prior to claiming.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our new findings reinforce what we hear so often from the people we help – welfare support is a vital lifeline for those experiencing financial hardship, and without it, they would struggle to pay for housing, food and other essentials, and provide for their families.
“It is therefore understandable that there is concern and uncertainty over future welfare reform. We would urge anyone who is worried about their situation to visit our website where they can find the latest information on benefit changes, and check their current entitlements. Anyone who thinks they might see a reduction in their income can also use our free tools to see if they might be eligible for any additional support.”
For more information, please visit Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware.