Families across the UK are missing out on much needed financial support

A new research report from Policy in Practice reveals that millions of households across the UK are missing out on financial support that they are entitled to. The unclaimed benefits add up to around £19 billion each year. Universal Credit makes up 41% of the unclaimed support, but households are also missing out on Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit and Pension Credit amongst others.

At a time when families are coming under increasing pressure due to high costs for food, energy and other essentials, this support could make a real difference. Daily, our Family Benefits Advice Service at Employers For Childcare hears from a wide range of families, all with different circumstances – but sharing similar struggles to balance their household finances. For some families, this means cutting out luxuries or using up savings. For others, they are cutting back on essentials and getting into debt. Around one in four children in Northern Ireland are living in households that are in poverty.

Just last week, the Trussell Trust highlighted that, in the past year, it had distributed a record number of food parcels in Northern Ireland, a high proportion of which were for children. The figure – over 81,000 – was higher than during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and more than double the figure from 2018/19. Importantly, households from a range of backgrounds are struggling – including those who are in work. Around 20% of those referred to foodbanks in Northern Ireland last year had someone at home who is in work.

With household incomes failing to keep pace with the rising cost of living, it is critical that all families are supported and encouraged to access all of the financial support they are entitled to.

Why are households missing out?

According to the study, there are a range of reasons why households are missing out including:

  • The complexity of the benefits system
  • Lack of awareness about support, eligibility and entitlements
  • Perceptions and stigma around the claiming of benefits
  • Fragmentation of support, with an increase in discretionary and other support schemes needed due to the inadequacy of means tested benefits.

Alongside these reasons, from our own work with families at Employers For Childcare we also know that households can assume they may not be entitled to support because they are working, they think their income is too high, or based on their own personal circumstances. In fact, many of these households will be entitled to some form of support and could be missing out.

What can be done to increase uptake of support?

Policy in Practice make several recommendations to increase the uptake of financial support:

  1. Address the inadequacy of benefit levels: increase the amount of support available through ‘mainstream’ benefits, to reduce the need for the wide array of ‘top up’ benefits and financial support schemes that add complexity to the system.
  2. Reduce complexity and increase awareness: initiatives to improve awareness amongst all households and improve cohesiveness and data sharing across the benefits system.
  3. Address stigma through a different approach to messaging: the Government needs to change its messaging around benefits such as Universal Credit, adopting a more supportive approach and moving away from a focus on increasing conditionality and sanctions.

Ensure your family isn’t missing out – speak to the Family Benefits Advice Service

Employers For Childcare has called for awareness raising campaigns to be targeted at parents, employers and childcare providers to increase awareness of the financial support that is available for families – particularly with registered childcare costs.

We know this is a complex area so – through our Family Benefits Advice Service – we support families to access free advice, guidance and personalised benefits calculations. Our team is here to help, and can advise on all forms of support from Universal Credit and Tax Credits, to support with childcare costs or disability benefits.

Last year, the Family Benefits Advice Service identified £11.6 million in financial support for families who received a calculation from us. Where we identified financial support was available for families, the average amount was £4,969 per year – or £96 per week.

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So – whatever your circumstances – give us a call on 028 9267 8200 and we can tell you what support your family may be entitled to, what scheme is best for you, how much you’ll save and advise you on how to apply. Our service is free, impartial and confidential and a quick call to our team could leave you significantly better off.

Even if you have had a check carried out in the past – call again, a change in your circumstances or updates to the various schemes may mean you now have an entitlement you didn’t have before, or perhaps an increase to what you are already receiving.

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