Raising a family can be expensive, and even if you work full-time, it can be a struggle to afford the everyday essentials.
Welfare benefits and tax credits can provide a vital lifeline for people who find themselves struggling financially. Yet shockingly around £15billion in welfare support goes unclaimed every year – often because people are unaware of this help, or simply don’t feel it’s for them.
In fact, the charity Turn2us recently found that almost half of low-income households aren’t claiming the welfare support they could be entitled to, with two-fifths of parents saying they’d been deterred from checking or claiming potential entitlements because they did not think they’d be eligible.
Furthermore, they found that nearly two-thirds of families who don’t currently claim would not consider checking their benefits entitlements if their income dropped. Yet almost a third would resort to cutting back on food, over a quarter said they would cut back on energy and other essentials, and over a fifth would borrow money from family or friends.
Turn2us is currently running a Benefits Awareness Campaign to help more people in financial hardship to access the welfare support available to them. It’s urging anyone in need to visit Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware to check what they could be entitled to and how to make a claim, and find further information and help for their situation.
With its new research also revealing that 90% of families who do claim benefits feel the extra support has made a positive financial impact, the charity wants everyone to know what help is available should they need it.
Which benefits could I be entitled to?
If you’re raising a family, there are a number of welfare benefits that could be available to you.
You can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child who is under 16. You may also be eligible to receive Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child aged 16 -19 if they are in education or training and meet certain criteria – see the HMRC information page for more details.
Child Tax Credit is paid to those on low incomes to help with the costs of raising a child. You can get money for each child that qualifies, and you don’t need to be working to claim. How much you could receive depends on your personal circumstances including income, how many children you have and whether they have any disabilities.
Child Tax Credit does not include any help with the costs of childcare. If you are working and you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit and this benefit can include help with childcare costs.
If you are a single parent of a child under five years old, you may also be able to claim Income Support. The amount you might receive depends on factors including income, savings, age and whether you have a mortgage.
You may also be eligible for help with your housing costs. Housing Benefit, which can help with rent and some service charges, is one of the most under-claimed income-related benefits.
Depending on your circumstances, there are other benefits you could be eligible for, and you can check your entitlements using the free Benefits Calculator at Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware.
Claiming your benefits entitlements can not only help to maximise your income, but it can also make you eligible for other financial help.
For example, you may be able to apply for a Sure Start Maternity Grant to help with the costs of a new-born or adopted baby if you or your partner claim one of the following: Income Support; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; the guarantee part of Pension Credit; and in some cases Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.
If you are pregnant or have a child under four, claiming some of these benefits may also mean you are eligible for Healthy Start Food vouchers, which can be exchanged for free milk, fruit or vegetables, or free vitamin supplements.
Depending on the benefits you claim, and your other circumstances, you may also be able to receive help with school uniforms, free school meals or free school travel for your children. There is further information at Turn2us.org.uk and GOV.UK.
Finding further information
Even if you have previously checked your benefits entitlement, it is worth checking again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances. You may be able to get help, even if you or your partner are in full-time work or have a mortgage.
You can use the free Benefits Calculator at Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware to check, based on your circumstances, what you might be entitled to, how much you should receive and how to make a claim.
The website also features further information on all of the benefits mentioned and help pages for different circumstances including expecting and bringing up a child.