Missing out: £19 billion of benefits support goes unclaimed each year

Tue,2 May 2023
News Benefits
A new research report by Policy and Practice estimates that the total amount of unclaimed income-related benefits and social tariffs is now around £19 billion a year.

Policy and Practice estimates that:

  • £7.5 billion of Universal Credit goes unclaimed by 1.2 million eligible households. Caseload take up varies between 70% and 90% for national means tested benefits
  • Take up is lower for locally administered benefits. Council Tax Support is the most underclaimed, with 2.7 million people missing out on £2.8 billion of support
  • Social tariffs are also significantly underclaimed. Broadband social tariffs have the lowest take up, with 97% of eligible households missing out on the tariffs
  • Benefits go unclaimed due to administrative complexity, a lack of awareness, stigma, and  the increasingly fragmented nature of support.

It then sets out the following as reasons why benefits are underclaimed:

  • Administrative complexity: The sheer complexity of multiple application mechanisms, administering organisations, eligibility criteria and conditionality creates a barrier for many people who are trying to navigate the system and access support
  • A lack of awareness: Many claimants are simply unaware that they can claim support given their circumstances or income
  • Stigma: Negative perceptions around claiming benefits may discourage eligible people from engaging in the benefit system
  • Å Increasing fragmentation of support: Inadequacy of means tested benefits is driving a growing plethora of discretionary and other support schemes. This creates postcode lotteries for available support and unequal conditions to access it.

As a result, it makes the following recommendations for policymakers:

  • Address the insufficiency of core social security benefits: Inadequate benefit levels contribute to an ever-increasing web of support, used to fill the gaps in the mainstream system. Making sure benefits cover the essential needs of a household is crucial.
  • Reduce complexity and increase awareness of local and national benefits: The Department of Work and Pensions should be made responsible for increasing take-up of support. Data sharing can streamline access to support and raise awareness of benefits at all points of contact with the household
  • Change the messaging around benefits: Government messaging is critical to ensuring that all those that are eligible access support.
  • The Government should adopt a supportive approach towards claimants by lessening conditionality.

Policy and Practice concludes that: “Maximising income through the take up of benefits is essential to support households during the cost of living crisis and prevent further financial crises.

“Designing an effective safety net that supports struggling families demands an accurate understanding of the level of unclaimed benefits and who is not claiming.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “That £19 billion of benefits and social tariffs go unclaimed each year is both staggering and shameful.

“Policy and Practice makes sound recommendations to counter this.

“Reducing complexity, increasing awareness and making sure benefits are meet needs for independent living are all crucial.

"There also needs to be proactive outreach to Disabled people for whom traditional communication or reliance on the internet is not sufficient.

“In addition, there needs to be an increase in advice and advocacy services to support Disabled people to claim.

“However, non-take up of benefits is also caused by official barriers that act as gatekeepers to access, such as arduous disability assessments and the threat of sanctions.”

Missing out: £19 billion of support goes unclaimed each year is available from policyinpractice.co.uk.