Using a benefits calculator to access tax credits and other benefits

In work and struggling: financial help for working families

By Karen Holmes, Senior Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity Turn2us

Are you a working parent struggling to pay your bills?

Are you feeling stressed and running up debt?

If so, you're not alone. As a national charity helping people in financial need, we hear from thousands of people everyday, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet despite being in some form of work.

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Working families are continuing to be hit by a lack of stable employment, a fall in real wages and rising living costs. In fact, nationally, for the first time ever, there are now more working households living in poverty than there are non-working households.*

Our own research uncovered that over three-fifths (62%) of working parents on low incomes feel their financial situation has worsened in the last year, and worryingly, almost half (49%) say that their outgoings now outweigh their earnings.

This is having a negative impact on their lives, with nearly two-fifths (38%) saying they have been unable to sleep and almost a third (30%) experiencing depression as a result of their situation.

We know from speaking to the people we help that there is often a lack of awareness of the financial support available, and many working parents may not realise that they could be eligible for help in the form of Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and other welfare benefits. Yet, we found that 85% of working parents who currently claim benefits say they have had a positive impact on their lives, helping with bills, childcare costs and avoiding debt – demonstrating the value of checking potential entitlements.

That’s why, through our current campaign Benefits Awareness Month, we are working to raise awareness of in work benefits and help more people in need to access this support.

Our free and easy-to-use Benefits Calculator will help you check which benefits you are entitled to, the amounts you could receive and how to make a claim. It’s worth taking a few minutes out of your day to do a calculation. Even if you have checked in the past, it’s worth doing so again especially if you have recently experienced a reduction in working hours, separation from your partner, or other changes in your circumstances.

Our website also features information pages for different employment groups to help you seek further support whether you are employed full or part time, are self-employed, on a zero hour contract, or on long term leave.

Through our campaign, we also want to build a picture of what life is really like for people living on low incomes and the issues they face, so if you’d like to take part, you can share your own experiences.

One person we have helped is Natalie, who started to struggle after having her first child.

Despite both Natalie and her partner being in work, they found their combined income was not enough to support the family, especially with additional expenses like mounting childcare costs. They found their wages were spent as soon as they went in to their bank account and Natalie says they were “constantly in debt”.

Searching online for support, Natalie came across Turn2us and using the Benefits Calculator, identified that she was eligible to claim Child Tax Credit, a benefit she was completely unaware of. Her successful application means she now receives an extra £70 per week.

Although money is still tight for Natalie and her family, she says the extra income has been “a big help” and taken the strain off their finances, relieving a lot of stress.

Through Benefits Awareness Month, we hope that more families experiencing similar issues will be able to access the financial support available to them.

For more information and to access our tools, please visit the Be Aware section of the Turn2Us website.

*Joseph Rowntree Foundation research: http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-disadvantage-exclusion-summary.pdf

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