The reality of life on benefits

85% of benefits claimants feel an institutional stigma

The actuality of living on benefits is often far removed from what the general public assumes.

The increase of so-called ‘poverty-porn’ on TV has further embedded benefits stigma into mainstream discussions.

A Turn2us study has revealed that despite benefit fraud accounting for 1% of claims, one in every five people believe a majority of benefit claims are false.

This is compounded by 36% of the public feeling that benefit claimants don’t deserve help, and a further 24% of the public feeling that benefit claimants need help because they are lazy.

A result of this widespread belief means that 85% of benefits claimants feel an institutional stigma and 50% feel a social stigma.

The reality of living on benefits is a topic that needs to be handled with compassion and care.

A 28 year old from Northamptonshire shared his experience on Reddit: “I lost my job due to ill health in December. I won’t get into details of salary but I was comfortable enough that I was looking to move in with my girlfriend around now had I been able to stay at work.

Woman sorting her finances

“As such, I have expenses reasonable enough for someone who was in a slightly above entry level admin job. A contract with the gym, £30 a month, a phone contract plus insurance, £46 a month, a car – essential as I live in rural Northamptonshire with no public transport links – which I own outright, but the insurance is £35 a month, my Labour party membership, £5 a month, my credit card bill – which I was slowly paying off after getting into difficulty post-university – £38 a month.

“My monthly expenditure is £157. My monthly benefits payments are £318. This leaves me with £160 for petrol to attend interviews, doctor’s appointments, pay for parking and other expenses.

“I spend almost all of my time looking for work, and yet I’m consistently called lazy by the DWP staff who I have to see fortnightly.

“When I get calls from agencies and employers the change in tone, when I explain my work situation, is palpable.

“Living on benefits is a miserable existence, and yet it is constantly demonised. People have even asked my girlfriend why she’s with me, as if she should be ashamed. It’s making me feel awful.”

Source: Turn2us

Half of low income households at risk of missing out on vital welfare support

New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that almost half (48%) of low income households are not claiming the welfare benefits and tax credits they could be entitled to. This is despite the fact that a huge 87% of this group have seen no improvement to their financial situation over the last year.

The findings uncover some of the reasons why these low income households may not be  claiming this support. Of those with disabilities, over half (53%) said they had been deterred from checking or claiming potential benefits entitlements because they did not think they would be eligible. In addition, a quarter (25%) feel that recent welfare benefit changes have made it too difficult to apply.

As a result, nearly two-thirds (65%) have not checked what welfare benefits they could be entitled to within the last year.

Worryingly, over two-fifths (41%) of people with disabilities who don’t currently claim benefits said they would have to cut back on gas, electricity and other essentials if their income dropped, and nearly two in four (38%) would resort to cutting back on food.

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The research is released as Turn2us launches its 2016 Benefits Awareness Campaign to help more people in financial hardship to access the welfare support available to them. The charity is urging anyone in need to use its free and confidential Benefits Calculator at Turn2us.org.uk to see what they could be entitled to and how to make a claim. The website also features information on benefits and other help for a range of different circumstances.

The charity’s new research also investigates the impact of welfare benefits and tax credits on low income households who are currently claiming. 88% of people with disabilities who claim say this extra support has had a positive financial impact. Nearly half (45%) say the benefits have helped with the extra costs they face due to their disability, whilst over half (54%) say they have helped towards their housing costs. In addition, almost a third (32%) report that welfare support has helped them to avoid getting in to debt.

Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Shockingly around £15bn in welfare support still goes unclaimed every year*, and as our findings show, people often feel that benefits simply aren’t for them.

“Through our campaign, we want to show that financial hardship can happen for many different reasons and could affect anyone at any time in their lives. Welfare benefits exist to provide a vital source of support for people in need, and as our research highlights, these can make a positive difference in paying for basic life essentials. We would urge anyone struggling to visit our website today to check what support could be available.”

For more information about the campaign, please visit Turn2us.org.uk/BenefitsAware.

Notes to Editors

 All figures, unless otherwise stated are from a survey conducted with Research Now in March 2016. Total sample size was 1,512 adults with annual household incomes of £25,000 and less before tax and deductions. Results were then analysed for those who were claiming means-tested benefits and tax credits, and those who were not claiming any means-tested benefits or tax credits, and then broken down for different groups

  • *Source: DWP and HMRC, 2013-14

About Turn2us:

  • Turn2us is a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services – online, by phone and face to face through partners and volunteers
  • The Turn2us website includes a Benefits Calculator to find out what welfare benefits and tax credits you could be entitled to, a Grants Search to find out if you might be eligible for support from over 3,000 charitable funds, and a range of information and resources to help people in financial hardship
  • Turn2us can also provide direct financial assistance through a range of specific funds that are managed directly by the charity, including the Elizabeth Finn Fund which supports people from over 120 different professions

For further information and interviews with Turn2us case studies or spokespeople, please contact:

Emma Lamberton, Communications Manager on
emma.lamberton@turn2us.org.uk or 0208 834 9259

“Too many people are still not claiming the financial help they  are entitled to”