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Charity urges people to check benefit entitlements amid cost-of-living crisis

Citizens Advice Bureau has urged people to check what benefits they may be missing out on (Rui Vieira/PA)
Citizens Advice Bureau has urged people to check what benefits they may be missing out on (Rui Vieira/PA)

A pensioner has described her elation at receiving £900 in backdated pension credits after she went to her local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for help with a dental bill.

Helen Simpson, 67, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, went to the dentist last summer with toothache and was told treatment would cost hundreds of pounds.

Ms Simpson said her income of a state pension and personal independence payment was “not enough to live on” and she struggled to afford the treatment.

She said: “I was actually shocked because I thought as a pensioner I would get it for free.

“So I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Musselburgh, and explained the situation. They asked me why I wasn’t claiming Pension Credit Guarantee. I said I’d never heard of it and didn’t even know what it was. They told me that it was a weekly benefit and that they thought I was eligible to claim it.”

Ms Simpson received help from CAB advisers to claim the additional benefit, which boosted her income by £83 per week, and was backdated for three months. The £900 payment was made to her bank account that evening which she describes as a “life-changing” amount of money.

She added: “Well you can imagine, I was gob-smacked. That sort of money is life-changing for me.

“Don’t get me wrong – I won’t be going on a cruise to the Bahamas or buying a Rolls Royce. I’m still living pretty near the breadline. But this extra money has made all the difference.

“It meant I could get my teeth fixed, and I can keep the heating on instead of rationing it. And there’s food in the cupboard, plus I can also treat my little dog a bit more.”

Citizens Advice Scotland, the umbrella charity responsible for all CABx in Scotland, are urging people to check what benefits and other funds they may be entitled to but not receiving.

Ms Simpson has urged others to go along to their local CABx for assistance and is helping to launch the charity’s “Get it Claimed” campaign.

“I’m keen now to get the message out to other people not to make the same mistake. You could have money sitting unclaimed right now, so get up and go for it.

“You could be like me, missing out on £80 a week. Or more. It’s your money, so get it claimed.

“If I hadn’t had a toothache last year, I’d still be sitting shivering in the cold, worried sick about how I was going to pay these big increases in energy bills. Or I’d be in debt – spiralling out of control, which is not a good place to be.”

Polling by CAS by YouGov found that fewer people now feel embarrassed to make a claim for benefits than they did two years ago.

In a sample size of 1,504, one in eight people felt too embarrassed to claim a benefit to which they were entitled, compared to one in five in 2020.

Across their network, CAS helped 171,000 people and generated £147 million in payments through social security benefits and employment entitlements.

Stephanie Millar, from Citizen’s Advice Scotland, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is hitting people hard. Nobody should be going without heat or food while there’s a pile of cash they could be claiming.

“In the current circumstances, every penny counts. We can’t promise everyone has a fortune in unclaimed money, but it costs nothing to let us check for you. As with all CAB advice, this process is completely free, confidential and independent.

“So today I’m asking people across Scotland to check what you’re missing out on. Your local CAB can do this, or if you prefer you can do it yourself using our online tool, And this call is for everyone – whether you are in work or not, pensioner, student, single or with a family. Our service is for everyone, regardless of circumstance.”