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.
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 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.
The charity’s new 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 today to check what support could be available.”
Official press release from Turn2us.org