More than half of low income households in the South-East are not claiming the welfare benefits and tax credits they could be entitled to.
This is despite the fact that a huge 86% of this group have seen no improvement to their financial situation over the last year.
New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that nearly three-fifths (57%) of those in the region who aren’t 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, one in six (16%) said they were unsure of how or where to find out about this help.
As a result, more than three-quarters (77%) have not checked what welfare benefits they could be entitled to within the last year.
The research goes on to reveal that furthermore, more than two-thirds (70%) would not consider checking their benefits entitlements if their income dropped, and only 2% would turn to a charity for help.
Yet nearly two-fifths (38%) said they would cut back on gas, electricity and other essentials, and almost a third (32%) 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. 93% of those who claim in the South-East say this extra support has had a positive financial impact.
More than half (54%) say that the benefits have helped towards their housing costs and over one in two (52%) say they have helped to buy food. In addition, a quarter (25%) reports that the benefits have helped them to 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.”
For more information about the campaign, visit Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware.
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