MSE News

Over £10 billion of benefits left unclaimed

Government figures released today show that up to an estimated £10.1 billion of pension credit, housing benefit and income support were left unclaimed in a single year.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal that 40% of families in Great Britain who are eligible for pension credit failed to claim the benefit during the 2016/17 tax year, leaving them missing out on an average of £2,500 for the year.

Meanwhile, 20% of families eligible for housing benefit, and 16% of those eligible for income support or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) did not claim. 

While some may choose not to claim benefits they are eligible for, the DWP's report says take-up may also be affected by factors such as the attractiveness of the benefit, lack of awareness or the perceived stigma of receiving a benefit. 

Use our 10 minute benefits check-up tool to calculate what you're entitled to.

Who's eligible for the benefits?

The Government statistics suggest that many aren't aware of some of these benefits, or don't realise they're entitled to them:

  • Pension credit gives a guaranteed minimum income to those over the state pension age. If you're over 65 (or have a partner aged over 65) and earn less than £163 per week as a single person or less than £248.80 as a couple, you could get your income topped up to this level. If you or your partner reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and have some savings for retirement, you could also be eligible for another £13.40 per week (£14.99 for couples) in savings credit. See our State Pension guide for more info.

  • Housing benefit gives help with part or all of the cost of rent to those who are on low incomes or claim certain benefits. You can claim whether you're employed or unemployed, but if you live with your partner, only one of you can get housing benefit.

  • Income support gives payments to over-16s who have low or no income, are not in full-time paid work, and meet other criteria. ESA is paid to those who have a disability or illness which affects their ability to work.

Depending on where you live, you may need to claim for Universal Credit rather than housing benefit or income support. This is because universal credit, which replaces several benefits with a single payment, is being brought in gradually across the UK until July 2019.

What do the figures show?

According to the figures, millions of families could be missing out on benefits they're entitled to:

  • Up to £3.5 billion of pension credit went unclaimed, meaning up to 1.3 million families are missing out on an average of £2,500 per year.

  • Up to £4.2 billion of housing benefit went unclaimed, meaning up to 1.3 million families are missing out on an average of £3,000 per year.

  • Up to £2.4 billion of income support and ESA went unclaimed, meaning up to 500,000 families are missing out on an average of £4,500 per year.

 What does the Government say?

A DWP spokesperson said: "Anyone who believes they're entitled to benefits should contact Jobcentre Plus – online, over the phone or by visiting their local branch.

"Our dedicated advisers and work coaches are on hand to help people claim what they are entitled to, and can signpost to other support options available."

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