National poverty charity, Turn2us offers practical information and financial support to people facing financial insecurity. As the charity marks 125 years of tackling poverty in the UK, it now asks, how many more of us need to struggle to afford to buy food or pay for essentials?
With rising energy and food bills, the cost-of-living crisis is pushing even more people into financial hardship. Michael Clarke, Head of Information Programmes for the charity, offers some useful tips on how to boost your income if you are suddenly feeling the pinch and the support and services available from Turn2us.
More than 100,000 people contact our Helpline every year looking for support. Some of them are at breaking point and their stories are increasingly more harrowing. Half of our users have literally no money left at the end of each week and many more are going into debt to pay bills or put food on the table. Others are making choices between buying food or topping up the energy meter – one mum told us that she had not eaten for three days. We hear from mothers pushed into destitution because of fleeing domestic abuse with their families, disabled people who can’t afford transport, people on low wages who can’t pay their rent…In a nation as wealthy as ours, this simply isn’t right.
As a charity that offers support to people facing financial insecurity, we want to continue to help people maximise their income and raise awareness of our services so that people struggling to afford life’s absolute basics know where to go for support. Ultimately, everyone should have the chance to thrive, not just survive.
A lot of people who are facing the daily stress and struggle of financial insecurity, don’t realise that they may be entitled to benefits - especially if they are in full time work. In fact, each year millions of benefits go unclaimed, and depending on your situation this is money you could be entitled to. It could just give you that extra financial support you need to help get by.
To check what benefits, you might be entitled to, you can use the free and confidential Turn2us Benefits Calculator. It is quick and easy and mainly calculates means-tested benefits. There might be extra benefits you can claim – particularly if you are expecting or bringing up a child and studying.
In the last year, two and a half million people completed a benefits calculation via the Turn2us Benefits Calculator. After completing a benefits calculation online, at least 224,000 people claimed new benefits in the past financial year – that is 60 people a day claiming up to an additional £5,230 in benefit income each year. And don’t forget to do the calculation regularly – even if you’re already claiming; benefits change, and you might be missing out.
Depending on your background, circumstances and needs, you might be eligible to apply for a charitable grant and other help. These are grants which do not have to be repaid. To find out what help may be available from grant-giving charities, you can use the Turn2us Grants Search tool.
In the last year alone, 1.2 million grant searches were completed via our Grants Search tool. We know our digital services, made widely available on our website, have been a lifeline for many. And we know that many people using our services come to us when they are at breaking point and can no longer afford to pay for even the most basic essentials.
Speak to your local council to see if you are eligible for council tax relief or a discount.
Councils have been given extra money to run discretionary funding schemes. This means councils have a lot of flexibility about how they decide to use the money. Your local council may run schemes, such as local welfare assistance, depending on your circumstances and where you live in the UK.
It is always good to understand your income and outgoings. People on the lowest incomes are often experts at budgeting and making their money stretch but there are steps we can all take to make sure we’re maximising our income.
The government-backed Money Helper website provide information on a wide range of financial subjects – including a free budget planner and tools to help prioritise your bills, as well as a guide to managing your money in uncertain times. You can also contact them for money guidance that’s impartial and free to use, whether that’s online or over the phone.
When it comes to your utility bills there are a few options on how you could make savings. It is always a good idea to get in touch with your water company to find out if you could be on a social tariff and you might also be able to get cheaper broadband.
If you’re struggling with household appliances and furniture, you might be eligible for some financial support. Using the Turn2us Grants Search tool you can check from over 1,500 grant-giving charities – including those who offer help with the cost of white goods.
If you have school age children, check if you could be getting free school meals and if you are paying childcare costs, check what help you could be getting with them. If you are pregnant or have children under four, check if you could be getting Healthy Start vouchers for food.
Turn2us is marking its 125th year of tackling poverty and asks how many more of us must struggle to afford life’s absolute basics? With 14.5 million people living in poverty in the UK and the cost-of-living crisis continuing to devastate people’s incomes, the charity hopes to reach more people in need of support through offering practical information and grants. To find out more please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/howmanymore