“We started to get behind on our bills and dreaded the post arriving. The stress of finances and day to day living was tearing us apart.”
This is how James – one of our users – described his situation before coming to us for help. James is disabled and unable to work, and he was struggling to get by on a low income. He felt confused about what financial support could be available.
As a charity helping people in financial hardship in the UK, we hear from thousands of people like James every day. We know that people can be hit by financial difficulties at any point in their lives for many different reasons such as illness, disability or caring for someone. Many are forced to live in cold homes or go without food as a result, yet there is often low awareness of what support they can claim, or sometimes a reluctance to ask for help.
One of the ways we help people in need is through our benefits calculator. This free and easy-to-use tool tells you what welfare benefits you could be entitled to, how much you may receive and how to make a claim.
It calculates entitlement to means-tested benefits including Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit, and also highlights potential eligibility for non-means benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. The tool is fully accessible for disabled people, and can be used on a mobile phone. It also links through to the Money Advice Trust’s ‘My Money Steps’ service which provides free debt advice.
Through using the benefits calculator, James managed to make a successful claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), receiving £200 every fortnight. His situation is now more positive and he says: “Things feel more stable now and I’m far less anxious. I feel I can move on with my life and pay the bills.”
In the last financial year, we saw over 940,000 calculations completed on our benefits calculator – a 63% increase on the previous year. As economic difficulties and proposed cuts to welfare continue, the need for help is greater than ever and we expect this rise to continue, which is why Scope and other charities are now hosting it on their website too.
The calculator is continually updated to reflect the latest benefit changes, and has helped more many people to understand their entitlements at an uncertain time.
Harriet supports her disabled adult son and was worried when his entitlement changed and his benefit was cut. Using the benefits calculator, she identified that he was eligible for additional support at £40 per week and says: “It’s taken a huge worry off of both of us. I’m so relieved my son can keep his financial independence.”
We would urge anyone who is struggling to take a few minutes out of their day to use the calculator to see what support they can claim for themselves or loved ones. Even if you have checked in the past, it is worth doing so again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances.
Our research has shown the value of checking entitlements with 85% of households who currently claim benefits telling us that this extra income has helped with their bills, childcare costs and even avoiding debt.
So why not see if you might be eligible for help today? If you need any support with the calculator, you can ring Scope’s helpline on 0808 800 33 33 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and someone can talk you through it.