A recent analysis by the DWP found that millions of people are failing to claim benefits they are entitled to, leaving nearly £13 billion pounds a year unclaimed. Could this include you?
The poor take-up rate could be influenced by the stigma many people feel about taking welfare benefits. The public vastly overestimate the numbers of people ‘claiming falsely’ or ‘committing fraud’. Kent University found that 1 in 5 people believe a majority of claims are false, while 14% believe a majority of claims are fraudulent. The Government’s own statistics indicate an actual fraud rate of only 1%.
Many pensioners are struggling
A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that nearly 2 million elderly people are having money problems, with hundreds of thousands unable to pay regular bills or keep their homes warm. At the same time around 1.4 million pensioners are failing to claim £3.3 billion they are entitled to. The DWP estimates that these pensioners are on average entitled to £2000 per year. If your only income is the basic state pension, you might qualify for Pension Credit and other benefits.
Pension Credit is an income-related benefit made up of 2 parts – Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £159.35 (for single people) or £243.25 (for couples). Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement, for example a pension. You can find out more at gov.uk
The “forgotten” unemployed
Recent research by the Resolution Foundation found that only 800,000 of the 1.5 million unemployed actually claim benefits. 300,000 people of working age who are unemployed or work less than 16 hours are entitled to Job Seekers Allowance (or the Universal Credit equivalent) but do not claim it at all. The study found that they are mostly women aged 55 to 64 or young men. The DWP estimates that half a million people may be entitled to £1.6 billion of unclaimed Income Related JSA.
In addition the DWP figures show that around half a million people who are unemployed through disability or long term illness are leaving £2.7 billion of Income Related Employment and Support Allowance unclaimed. This amounts to a massive £5000 per person.
Families missing out too
The DWP estimates that only 8 out of 10 families entitled to Housing Benefit are actually making a claim. This means that around 1.6 million families are missing out on 4.8 billion pounds a year. Take up of Housing Benefit is particularly low in the private rental sector where only 64% of those entitled are claiming this.
What you can do
If you think you may be entitled to Pension Credit, it only takes one phone call and you won’t have to fill in a form. Call the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 (textphone: 0800 169 0133). They will fill in the application for you over the phone. It’ll be quicker if you have the following details to hand: National Insurance number; bank account details; information about your income, savings and investments; information about your pension (if you have one); details of any housing costs (such as mortgage, interest payments, service charges); and partner’s details (if you have a partner).
To check if you should receive other benefits and how much you should get, you can use the benefits calculators at turn2us.org.uk orentitledto.co.uk
If you need help you can contact us at Citizens Advice Surrey Heath.