Claim what's yours

Benefits are paid to ensure everyone has a minimum standard of living and can help you if you're on a low income, unemployed, pregnant or have children, bereaved, sick, disabled or a carer.

According to Citizens Advice, there are several reasons why people don't claim what they're entitled to. Firstly, the benefits and tax credit system is complicated, which puts people off making a claim.

Additionally, some people simply don't realise they are eligible for particular benefits, or don't think it's worth their while claiming.

Tax credits are a good example of this. A family earning up to £58,175 can claim child tax credits, meaning that nine out of 10 families with children qualify for them. However, around 700,000 families failed to claim this benefit last year.  

Working out whether you're entitled to any of the government's unclaimed billions is easy.

Turn2us, the charity set up to help people access the welfare grants and benefits entitled to them, has several tools on its website to help you find out what you are entitled to.

These include an income-related benefits checker, which covers benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit, and a grants search tool to help you check whether you are entitled to a welfare or educational grant from a charity. 

Because a lot of benefits are means-tested you'll need to get together some paperwork before you use the benefits checker.

Among the information you'll need is details of your income, savings, council tax and mortgage or rent payments. You'll also need these details for your spouse or partner and any children that live with you.  

Once you've input your details into the benefits checker it tells you whether you're entitled to claim any benefits.

It will also tell you if you can backdate a claim. Not all benefits can be backdated but among those that can are tax credits and pension credit, which can be backdated for up to three months, and housing and council tax benefit, which can be backdated for up to three months for people aged 60-plus, or for up to six months for younger people, provided they have a reason for the delay.

Be aware, though, that changes in circumstances may also result in you receiving more benefits than you are entitled to. If you suspect this is the case, contact your benefit office. 

As well as using the benefits checker you can also get advice and support from a number of charities, including AdviceUK (020 7469 5700), Age UK (0800 169 6565) and your local Citizens Advice Bureau, (020 7833 2181).

Macmillan Cancer Support also has a guide, Benefits Made Clear, on its website that helps anyone with cancer to claim the benefits to which they're entitled.

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