Today is the launch of our 2016 Benefits Awareness Campaign to help more people in financial hardship access the benefits support available to them. Our new research 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 in their financial situation over the last year.
Nearly three-fifths (57%) of those not receiving this support 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 households with children said they were unsure of how or where to find out about this help, whilst a quarter (25%) of people with disabilities felt recent welfare benefit changes have made it too difficult to apply.
As a result, over four-fifths (81%) have not checked what welfare benefits they could be entitled to within the last year. This is highest for full-time (86%) and part-time workers (87%), suggesting they may not be aware of in-work benefits which exist to top-up low incomes.
Furthermore, two-thirds (66%) would not consider checking their benefits entitlements if their income dropped, and only 4% would turn to a charity for help. Yet nearly two-fifths (37%) said they would cut back on gas, electricity and other essentials, and almost a third (30%) would resort to cutting back on food.
The research also investigates the impact of welfare benefits and tax credits on low income households who are currently claiming, with 88% saying this extra support has had a positive financial impact. Half say that the benefits have helped towards their housing costs and food, whilst over a quarter (27%) say they have helped them avoid getting in to debt.
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 and use our free and confidential Benefits Calculator to check what support could be available.”
Find out more about the campaign at turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware and join the conversation on social media with hashtag #BenefitsAware.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a survey conducted with Research Now in March 2016. Total sample size was 1,512 adults with annual household incomes of £25,000 and less before tax and deductions. Results were then analysed for those who were claiming means-tested benefits and tax credits, and those who were not claiming any means-tested benefits or tax credits
*Source: DWP and HMRC, 2013-14