by Stephanie Millar, Manager of the CAS Social Justice team.
This article was first published in the Herald on 4 July 2022.
One of the most frustrating things about working in the advice sector is knowing that many people who are struggling are entitled to money but aren’t claiming it. And conversely, the most rewarding thing is when you can tell someone they’re due a pile of cash they never knew about.
Take the recent case of Helen Simpson from Musselburgh. She was really scrimping to get by on her pension and disability benefits when she was hit with a £300 bill for essential dental treatment. In desperation she came to her local CAB for help.
The first thing any CAB does with such a client is an Income Maximisation check. It’s a fancy title but just means we check to see if the person is entitled to any benefits or grants they’re not claiming. It is astonishing how often this is the case.
Sure enough, Musselburgh CAB found that Helen was entitled to a Pension Credit Guarantee worth £87 per week that she didn’t even know about so hadn’t been claiming. They even managed to back-date her claim so she got a £940 lump sum before the regular payments began.
Helen still can’t believe this has happened to her. She’s not exactly rich now but she’s not rationing her food and heating either. Her response was to ask us to tell her story, to spread the word about unclaimed benefits and encourage others (perhaps even you) to do what she did. Helen’s very direct speaking inspired the title of our campaign launch last week: Get It Claimed.
Now, you are thinking oh that’s all very well but that won’t apply to me. Are you absolutely sure about that? Because that’s what Helen used to think. Ask yourself, how well do you know the tax credit system? Are you aware that people in work can still get benefits? Do you know how many ways a person can be eligible for Council Tax discount?
I’m not expecting you to know all these details. Our tax and benefits system is hideously complicated. But your local CAB adviser does know them. They’ll be able to work out in a matter of minutes if you’re missing out on anything.
I’m not just talking about pensioners either. Families, single people, students, workers – you’d be amazed how many people have ‘unknown’ entitlements. And like all CAB services, an Income Maximisation check is free, impartial and completely confidential (remember, I’m only telling Helen’s story because she asked us to).
Recent research has found a drop in the number of people who feel embarrassed about claiming benefits. We welcome that trend very much. The benefits system is not charity: if you’re entitled to something you’re entitled to it and should claim it. Simple as that.
So, do yourself a favour today. Check out what you may be missing. You can ask your CAB to do it for you, or you can even check for yourself using our online tool: www.moneymap.scot.
And then do a good deed for others too by passing this info on to your friends and family, particularly those who may be struggling financially.
In these tough times, if you are due any extra income it’s surely worth having. After all, it’s your money. So Get it Claimed.
You can read more about Helen Simpson's story and the Get It Claimed campaign launch here.