Turn2us’s recent #BenefitsAware finding that a fifth of families aren’t sure which benefits they might be entitled to claim strikes a chord. On the Working Families legal advice helpline, we often hear from working parents who assume they’re not able to claim anything apart from Child Benefit. Often this isn’t the case.
And the fluid nature of family life mean that things can change from month to month. Household income may reduce significantly when mothers go on maternity leave and additional children mean that the amount you earn is treated differently. If parents return to work then they may become eligible for help with childcare costs. So even if parents have been told they earn too much in the past, this may no longer be the case.
Worryingly, we have heard from a number of working parents who have had such a bad experience with the tax credits system that they’re reluctant to put in a claim even when our advisers have told them they’d be successful.
One family who called our helpline had been forced to pay back tax credit payments even though they hadn’t been paid more than they were entitled to. They have a high rent, debt on a car they need for work and have to pay for school meals. Both parents work, and they are struggling to make ends meet. We told the family they could challenge the decision which found they’d been overpaid. We also told them nothing in their previous history suggested the same thing would happen again.
Consequences of not claiming all relevant benefits
The consequences of not claiming all relevant benefits can be wide-ranging for families as entitlement is often connected. For example, tax credits affect Housing Benefit. Therefore if parents have changes to their tax credit entitlement, they should let their local council know so that their Housing Benefit can be updated.
The fact that the welfare system remains in a state of flux is no doubt making families question whether it’s worth putting in a claim. There will be further changes in the coming months and changes may happen at different times in different parts of the country. But the message of the #BenefitsAware campaign is one we’re pleased to support – anyone with money worries should check what they’re entitled to.
With over a quarter of children in the UK living in poverty, many families can’t afford not to.
Working Families is the UK’s leading work-life balance organisation, helping working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work.