- Tuesday, 24 April 2012
A survey commissioned by Turn2us, part of national charity Elizabeth Finn Care, has uncovered some of the stigmas and negative perceptions of welfare benefits held by 55s and overs on low incomes - who could be in need of financial help.
The results are released as Turn2us holds its second annual Benefits Awareness Month, to encourage people in financial need to check their potential entitlements.
The research has found that only just over a fifth (23%) of over 55s on low incomes believe that those claiming means-tested benefits have the right to do so, and nearly two fifths (39%) hold the opinion that claimants need to help themselves as opposed to relying on state support.
Over half (60%) of those surveyed said they feel that welfare benefits exist to help the most vulnerable in society, yet the results indicate that over a fifth (21%) do not associate themselves with this group, reporting they have not claimed in the past and could never see themselves doing so, despite being on a low income.
Shockingly, over one in ten (11%) of over 55s on low incomes revealed they would rather cut back on essentials such as food rather than claim benefits, and 7% would be too ashamed to tell friends and family if they were to claim.
Of the 13.5 million people living below the poverty line in the UK, only 5.4 million are claiming state support, and over £19 billion in welfare benefits goes unclaimed each year. As further cuts come in to effect and pay freezes continue, Turn2us is urging those on low incomes who may be struggling financially to check their entitlements in case they are missing out on vital additional support.
Individuals can log on to www.turn2us.org.uk for free and in confidence and access a benefits calculator to work out which welfare benefits and tax credits they might be entitled to and possible amounts they might receive.
Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said: “Our research findings show that more needs to be done in terms of raising awareness of welfare benefits available and reducing some of the negative perceptions around claiming. We know that people can often be reluctant to turn to charities or claim benefits when times get tough. With increasing numbers of households being affected by the current economic climate, including those who never ever expected to face financial difficulty, we hope our campaign will help more people to see past any perceived stigmas and access the help available to them.”
Real life stories
As part of its month-long campaign, Turn2us has created a ‘guess-who’ style game, available at www.benefitsawareness.org.uk, which features real-life stories of a diverse group of people who claim welfare benefits.
Through asking the user a series of questions about the circumstances of the benefits claimants who appear and illustrating how benefits have made a difference in these people’s lives, the game aims to challenge some of the stigmas and stereotypes linked to claiming benefits.
Turn2us is also working in partnership with a number of intermediary and charitable organisations across the UK throughout the month, who will help to spread word of the help available for people in financial need and how they can access it.
A free and confidential helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday:0808 802 2000
Don’t be ashamed to claim
William accessed the Turn2us website to see if there were any welfare benefits available to him when he unexpectedly became unemployed at the age of 60.
He said: “It was the first time, in over 40 years, that I found myself without a job and my understanding of the benefits system was very limited.
I felt, at first, that by claiming I was sacrificing my independence, but by accessing this support, a huge financial
burden has been lifted. Using Turn2us was quick and easy, and now I don’t have to worry about not being able to pay my rent, freeing up my energy to focus on job-hunting.”
Benefits Awareness Month - 26 March 2012