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You could be entitled to free money – here’s how to use a benefits calculator to find out

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The cost of living has risen steeply over the last year — faster than at any time since 1992 — as energy bills, the pandemic, Brexit, staff shortages and supply chain issues push prices up. But there is help available.

Every year people miss out on billions of pounds of free money they are entitled to but unaware of, including benefits, grants and help for bills and debts, according to financial specialists IncomeMax.

There are a number of different charities and social enterprises designed to help people get the loans, grants and benefits they have a right to access but might not know about. The Big Issue asked the experts.

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What free money am I entitled to?

Depending on your circumstances, you could be due universal credit payments, council tax support and money towards household bills.

You may also be entitled to funds towards caring for children, living with a disability and caring responsibilities.

Check whether you are eligible for a council tax rebate

The government has come up with the council tax rebate scheme in response to the cost-of-living crisis that will see millions of people across the UK face a steep decline in living standards and real-terms income – something that is now being exacerbated by the economic fallout of war in Ukraine

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak will offer council tax rebates of between £150 and £200 to England’s households in bands A to D, with larger rebates for the most disadvantaged families. The devolved governments will receive funding to implement the same policy.

Sunak also announced a £200 loan for all households, which the government will cover upfront before customers repay energy companies in £40 instalments over the next five years. The loan – dubbed a “discount” by Sunak – will be handed out in October, when the energy price cap is scheduled to change again.

The Government has urged people to set up direct debits with their local council to receive the rebate, which will be paid directly into their bank accounts from April. If you do not pay council tax by direct debit, your local council should contact you with an invitation to make a claim. 

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Use a benefits calculator to see what benefits you are entitled to

There are a number of different charities and social enterprises designed to help people get the loans, grants and benefits they have a right to access but might not know about.

Turn2us benefits calculator

Turn2us has a free benefits calculator where you can check what free money you’re entitled to. According to the charity, more than two million people have used the calculator to find information they deserve and need.

According to the charity’s recent research, more than seven million people are still missing out on an unclaimed £15.1bn of benefits, with 45 per cent of people having never checked what benefits they are eligible for.

Sonya Ruparel, director of programmes and partnerships, said: “There is an endemic issue of unclaimed benefits in the UK. The confusing, sometimes hostile, and often stigmatising world of social security has led to millions of people not claiming their entitlements. 

Those “who goes on to claim the benefits our calculator tells them they are entitled to, receive an average of £5,320 a year. It is so important for people to check. We urge everyone to do a benefit calculation every six months as part of a regular financial health check.”

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Policy in Practice benefits calculator

Policy In Practice is another service which provides a free budgeting and benefits calculator.

Deven Ghelani, director of the social policy software and analytics company, said: “Many people have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and have needed the support of the welfare system, perhaps for the first time.

“When I first had to claim, I found the system was complex, confusing and I missed out on support.

“That’s why I started Policy in Practice, and built a free benefits calculator to help people understand what support you can claim to get back on your feet.”

Entitledto benefits calculator

There is also a free benefits calculator available from Entitledto, giving a step-by-step guide through things like tax credits depending on people’s individual circumstances.

Entitledto says: “We believe that everyone living in the UK should be able to understand what their legitimate entitlements are and honestly claim that amount from government – social security is a key aspect of our society and a vital part of our modern communities.”

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