Do you know what benefits you’re entitled to? Every year, around £15bn of benefits goes unclaimed. People are missing out on vital financial support, often because they don’t realise what benefits they can claim. The good news is that there’s a way to check if you’re missing out. I wish I’d known this several years ago, when my own situation took a turn.
I didn’t know I could get help
Shortly after the 2007/8 financial crisis, when the banks were being bailed out and governments around the world were working urgently to prevent the crisis totally crashing the economy, I was facing something of my own financial crisis. As the sole earner in my family, my wife pregnant with our second child, a mortgage that had just reverted to a high standard variable rate and a house that was in thousands of pounds of negative equity, I was under a lot of financial and emotional pressure.
What were we going to do? We couldn’t sell the house, we couldn’t remortgage to a lower rate, my wife was heavily pregnant so couldn’t work, there was no maternity pay to look forward to, and we couldn’t afford childcare if she was to seek work shortly after having the baby. I had no clue what to do – even as someone who worked in financial services, and who gave debt advice in my spare time.
And that’s when I thought to check if there was any support I could claim.
I’d not done so for all kinds of reasons. I was on a decent salary and in full time work, we were homeowners, we didn’t have any disabilities or caring responsibilities… what was the point? Benefits weren’t for people in my position – they were for people who were in really hard times. But I decided to do what I was advising people to do often in my work and in my volunteering – I checked on Turn2Us benefits entitlement calculator – more in a spirit of it being worth a go, and I should rule it out before I tell my wife how much trouble I feared we were in.
Ten minutes later, I couldn’t believe it. There was hope – there was help!
The Turn2Us calculator identified that my wife was entitled to Statutory Maternity Allowance. All we had to do was ensure her National Insurance Contributions were up to date – only a few pounds in our circumstances at the time – and she was entitled to around £150 a week for nine months from our second child being born.
This made a HUGE difference to us. I was feeling really low and despondent about our finances for some weeks before I’d checked this, and the journey from such worry and fear for our future to such hope and joy was exhilarating! That money was enough to help us plan how we’d address the mortgage rate we were stuck on, discuss our shared plans about her returning to work at a time that felt right for our family and not driven by financial pressure, and I’d even go so far as to say was a fundamental part of holding my mental health and our marriage together.
The journey from such worry and fear for our future to such hope and joy was exhilarating!
Are you missing out?
Every year, approximately £15bn of benefits go unclaimed, despite a social security system that we all pay into through our taxes, and which we all hope would be there for us and our communities when the harder parts of life hit us. Unemployment, ill health, taking on caring responsibilities – these transitions can be hard and knock the wind out of anyone’s sails, but our shared social security system was designed to support us through those situations, for the good of all of us. So why is it that so much money that people are entitled to is sitting there, unclaimed?
Well, finding out what benefits you are entitled to isn’t always easy. And claiming it can sometimes be even harder, depending on your circumstances. And various sticky social attitudes about benefits can build something of a stigma around them.
It shouldn’t be that way – and it doesn’t have to be that way.
A benefits calculator will tell you what you can claim
That’s why we’ve worked with our friends at Turn2Us to be able to offer their benefits entitlement calculator on our website. It’s free, easy to use, takes less than ten minutes if you’ve got the right bits of paper to hand and a cup of tea, and doesn’t just tell you what you should be entitled to, but also how to begin claiming the relevant benefit. Turn2Us keep all their information about benefits up to date and all your information anonymous.
In the course of the work to put this calculator on the website, we discovered
Around one in every eleven benefits checks done finds more money for the individual
The typical amount of extra income found in 2022 so far is around £2,000 per year, but this can vary, with some people finding a lot more than that
Imagine the impact if everyone knew what they were entitled to claim
And that’s when we got to dreaming. Imagine if a hundred churches had someone in them who used this, and went on a mission to make sure everyone in the church had had a benefits check done. If those churches were the size of a typical CAP partner church, that would mean around a thousand people that Sunday going home a total of £2 million a year better off between them! Imagine if those church members, having seen such an impact, went on to share the news with their neighbours, friends, families and colleagues.
Our vision at CAP is to see transformed lives, thriving churches and an end to UK poverty.
I’ve seen the difference that a simple benefits check can make in my life. I’m dreaming of that difference being replicated in churches & communities right around the country. And while I know that there is much to do to ensure that social security is set at a sufficient level to meet people’s needs, I think helping people claim what they’re entitled to is one important component in taking those steps towards seeing an end to UK poverty.
It takes ten minutes. Boil the kettle. Do it here.