Wednesday, 20 November 2013
A Coventry housing association is urging people to check their benefits entitlement as a priority after discovering that £15m of tax credits go unclaimed in the city each year.
Affordable housing provider Whitefriars Housing, which is part of the WM Housing Group, has number crunched previously released *government figures from HM Revenue and Customs. Further analysis has today revealed that around 6,000 families in Coventry are not receiving the tax credit and/or working tax credits that they are entitled to. This equates to a massive £15m – a previously unknown figure.
This announcement is even more significant amid fears that thousands of families across the city could sink into debt as a result of the government’s welfare reforms.
Whitefriars conducted this work as part of its remit within the Coventry Partnership, a group of city support organisations working together to combat negative effects from the welfare reforms.
Leisa Dixon, financial inclusion strategy manager at WM Housing, said: “£15m is a shockingly large amount of money which people are not getting their hands on. In particular we find that people don’t realise that they may be entitled to working tax credits and help with childcare costs if they have a job. Being in work makes financial sense, even if you have children. You just need to know what help you can get.
“There are a lot of agencies in the city that can help you work out what support you can get . I strongly advise anyone who would like to know if they are eligible for extra benefits either now, or if they take a new job, to go to Coventry CAB, The Law Centre, or any of our welfare reform partners.”
One person who has benefitted from Whitefriars’ advice is mother of three Evelyn Ndlovu from Spon End. When the 45-year-old became ill and lost her job she found herself in £2,000 rent arrears and faced losing her home.
She explained: “I was going to lose my home when Whitefriars came out to talk to me about what the problem was. They supported me to apply for Tax Credits and I found out I was entitled to them. Now I receive the credits and I am working again I am managing to pay my rent and bills.
“I am so grateful to Whitefriars for the help they have given me. If other people like me need help from becoming homeless then they should ask for help.”
Daksha Piparia, fund and policy manager at Coventry CAB, added: “If you are struggling with your finances, the worst thing that you can do is ignore it and hope that it will go away. As today’s research has shown, there are often things that you can do to make your life easier. In Coventry we have an excellent network of support agencies that provide free advice. Pop in and speak to any of us, and we will guide you in the right direction.”
Today’s revelation comes on the back of the launch in July of a free advice booklet and DVD on the government’s welfare reforms. The booklet and DVD were published by the Coventry Partnership – made up of Whitefriars Housing, Coventry City Council, Coventry CAB, Coventry Law Centre, Midland Heart and Job Centre Plus.
The booklet highlights seven actions that people can take to protect the money in their wallet.
- Get a benefits check
- Look at monthly budgeting
- Take advantage of help to get into employment
- Make sure you have a bank account
- Pay of any arrears (especially rent and other priority debts)
- Set up direct debits
- Get online
To receive advice on tax credits, or to collect a free advice welfare reform booklet or DVD, go to any of the offices of the members of Coventry Partnership – Whitefriars Housing, Coventry City Council, Coventry CAB, Coventry Law Centre, Midland Heart or Job Centre Plus.
Background on welfare reforms in Coventry
- More than 3,000 residents in Coventry have been affected by the under-occupation charges (the bedroom tax), that was introduced in April 2013.
- Changes to disability benefits introduced in August have affected a further 3,000 residents.
- It is estimated that the introduction of Universal Credit, which is being introduced in the UK from October, will affect around 60,000 Coventry residents.