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MSPs to investigate reasons for benefits going unclaimed

9 September 2019

A Holyrood committee has begun an inquiry into the reasons for people in Scotland not claiming benefits to which they are entitled.

The Social Security Committee has issued a call for evidence to support its investigation, aimed at finding out how takeup for both reserved and devolved social security benefits can be improved, including through benefit automation.

MSPs will explore what we do, and do not know about what is unclaimed and what can be learned from previous efforts to promote takeup.

The Department for Work & Pensions, with HMRC, estimate that fewer than a third of families without children who were eligible for working tax credit claimed it in 2016-17, and only 60% of those eligible for pension credit signed up for it.

Following a round table discussion with several organisations last week, the committee would welcome views on questions including:

  • What do we know about how much is unclaimed and why?
  • What are the gaps in knowledge/research and how can they be improved?
  • How can the administration of benefits be improved to maximise takeup?
  • To what extent is it possible for technology to create a more automated system, using information gathered for other reasons? 
  • What can we learn from previous campaigns to increase take-up?
  • Are different approaches required for different benefits and different client groups?
  • What kinds of eligibility criteria ensure better takeup?
  • How might the development of Scottish social security impact on takeup of both reserved and devolved benefits?

Committee convener Bob Doris commented: "There can be any number of reasons for low benefit uptake rates, but it is absolutely essential that we learn the scale of this challenge and take every possible action to improve uptake.

"There is no doubt the stigma of claiming benefits hinders uptake, while too often people are simply not aware of the benefits they are entitled to. Administration processes are also often too complex, and our inquiry is determined to identify any barriers to benefit uptake and how we can remove these.

"The committee will consider the Scottish Government strategy on benefit uptake, which will be published in October, but what is clear is that everything possible must be done to ensure those in need receive the full benefits they are entitled to."

Click here to view the call for evidence. Responses are requested by Monday 21 October 2019.


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