MILLIONS of pounds in benefits are lying unclaimed by households facing mounting bills and debts, says the UK debt and budgeting charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
An online benefits calculator which was launched by the charity three months ago has already identified more than £6 million in potential extra annual income for the 21,000 people who used it.
The free calculator was created and developed by CAP, and Turn2us, a national charity providing practical help to people struggling financially.
In 2022, CAP recorded a 20 per cent rise in calls to its free debt helpline. There was also a 60 per cent increase in emergency food shops for those going hungry, and double the amount of emergency energy top-ups for people struggling to heat their homes.
The charity’s director of external affairs, Gareth McNab, said: “Millions of people are starting 2023 facing rapidly rising costs, with huge energy bills during the cold of winter, and static incomes falling in value against record levels of inflation. Right now, it’s absolutely vital for anyone living on a low income to make sure they are receiving all the support they are entitled to, and are aware of the free help available if they are in debt.”
CAP’s latest client survey shows that half of CAP’s clients waited at least one year before seeking help with debt problems. One quarter took more than three years.
“If you are in debt, making the first call for help can feel tough,” Mr McNab said, “but people often tell us they feel a real sense of relief after doing so. The sooner you get professional free debt advice from an organisation like Christians Against Poverty, the sooner we can put a plan in place and help you move forward.”
One CAP client, Rodney, fell into £38,000 of debt after a serious leg injury cost him his job. “We had no heating, no hot water, and ran completely out of food,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to feed my kids. To be in that situation is horrific. I’ve not claimed benefits in the past; so I didn’t know anything about it.
“Out of desperation, I went on the internet and found Christians Against Poverty. By the grace of God we were saved.” CAP provided heating oil, food, and access to benefits. “I’m now out of debt. Once you know what is available, you can do something about it. The key to it all, to getting out of debt, is having that little bit of knowledge that someone can help you.”
The benefits calculator can be found at www.capuk.org/benefitscalculator and at www.turn2us.org.uk.