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Inquiry launched into unclaimed benefits

Image credit: PA

Inquiry launched into unclaimed benefits

Less than a third of those eligible for certain benefits actually claim them, a Scottish Parliament committee has warned ahead of a new inquiry into those missing out on support.

The Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee will look into the up-take of benefits after figures revealed as few as 31 per cent of people eligible to claim certain benefits do so.

The committee will also investigate why the full extent of unclaimed benefits in the UK is “unknown” due to limited data on eligibility from the UK Government.

Statistics from HMRC and DWP cited by the committee estimated that in 2016/17 only 31 per cent of families without children eligible for Working Tax Credit claimed the benefit, while only 60 per cent of those eligible claimed Pension Credit.

But the committee also said that “the full extent of benefit non-take-up in the UK is unknown” because of difficulties in estimating eligibility, stemming from a lack of available information.

The committee will be looking into a range of ideas for improving the up-take of benefits, including awareness raising campaigns and the possible use of automation.

Bob Doris MSP, Convener of the Social Security Committee, said: “There can be any number of reasons for low benefit uptake rates, but it is absolutely essential that we learn the scale of this challenge and take every possible action to improve uptake.

“There is no doubt the stigma of claiming benefits hinders uptake while too often people are simply not aware of the benefits they are entitled to. Administration processes are also often too complex, and our inquiry is determined to identify any barriers to benefit uptake and how we can remove these.

“The committee will consider the Scottish Government strategy on benefit uptake which will be published in October, but what is clear is that everything possible must be done to ensure those in need receive the full benefits they are entitled to.”

Responding to the inquiry's launch, Citizens' Advice Scotland's Social Justice Spokesperson, Nina Ballantyne said:“The Scottish CAB network helps hundreds of thousands of people every year, and many of those are people who are struggling to make ends meet. We often find that people are entitled to payments they have not been claiming and helping them get what they’re owed can be life-changing.

“The reasons behind people not receiving what they’re entitled to vary, but in our experience they include stigma, the difficulty of the application system, including digital barriers, and low awareness of particular benefits or eligibility. This does require more extensive analysis however, so we are pleased that MSPs are going to look into the issue, and we will be keen to work with them in this and to submit further evidence.

“In the meantime our focus is on helping people to claim what they are entitled to, and we would encourage anyone who is on low incomes to contact their local CAB or call our Money Talk Team on 0800 085 7145.

 “Our free, confidential and independent advisers help people every day. We can check if you are entitled not just to social security benefits but also to help with energy bills.”  

The committee is asking for anyone with views on the subject to write in before Monday 21 October 2019.

Evidence can be submitted via the committee page

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