Many people across Scotland will need support at some point in their lives, but may be unaware of the benefits they are entitled to.
A change in life circumstances and life events, such as having a family, bereavement or becoming a carer for a family member, can mean they are entitled to benefits.
Bill Scott, director of Policy at Inclusion Scotland, works with disabled people every day and explains why he feels it’s important that people realise what they are entitled to.
He said: “As part of my job I’ve spoken to literally thousands of disabled people. I’m constantly amazed at just how many aren’t receiving all the benefits that they could be. As a result billions of pounds in social security goes unclaimed every year.
“There are all manner of reasons which can lead to a change in people’s circumstances: a long term health condition deteriorating; the need to provide care to a relative; the sudden onset of impairment after a stroke or accident; a happy event like a new arrival in the family or a sad one like a death.
“Even if you were told in the past that you didn’t qualify for any extra benefits, a change in your life circumstances could mean that you do now. The current system can be complex, and requires people to fill out lengthy forms or even make a claim online.
“That can be very difficult for some people but they should be aware that help is out there through agencies like the Scottish Citizens Advice service and local authority welfare rights teams.
“These agencies can carry out a check for you to make sure that you’re getting everything that you might be entitled to and take you through the process of applying.”
There are still some negative associations with social security, which Bill sees in his job everyday.
He said “A lot of stigma has been created around claiming benefits, which can make people feel that they are perceived as looking for a handout.
“But the social security system was set up to provide us with help to get through difficult periods in our lives. This support is an entitlement, not a handout, and everyone should claim what they are due.”
• Find out if you’re eligible for this support
• Make sure you’re getting the help you’re entitled to
• Social security is an investment in everyone and is there to help people when they need it
• It is estimated that more than half a million individuals and families in Scotland are not claiming the benefits they are entitled to
• Changes in life circumstances and life events mean anybody could need support at some point in their lives (ie. it could apply to any of us one day)
• Citizens Advice Scotland can provide further information. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call free 0800 085 7145 for more details.