News at a glance:
- Reports suggest that around £15 billion in means tested benefits are unclaimed each year in the UK, with a significant amount going unclaimed by West Lothian residents
- Support and advice for people is available via West Lothian Council's Advice Shop - who have helped raise over £25 million in benefits, in West Lothian, in 2022. The team can help local people find out what benefits they are entitled to, and ensure that they are not missing out on support
- The Advice Shop is a free, impartial and confidential service to help the people of West Lothian with a focus to alleviate poverty and to promote inclusion and equality through advice, assistance and advocacy in Welfare Benefits, Energy Advice, Money and Debt and Housing Advice
- Customers can use the online benefit calculator which can be found here: Benefit Calculator
- The council's Advice Shop dealt with nearly 178,000 individual contacts and enquiries last year - a 22% increase on 2021. The team helped support over 15,300 individual customers
The council's Anti-Poverty Manager Nahid Hanif said:
"The cost of living is affecting many people and what is very important is that those that are entitled to benefits ensure that they are receiving them. Benefits exist to help people who need that extra support and it's clear through our work that many people don't' realise that they are entitled to that additional support via benefits.
"It's very clear that many West Lothian residents are not claiming the benefits that they are entitled to going by the £15 billion of benefits that are going unclaimed across the UK. A significant proportion of them will stay in West Lothian.
"I'd urge local people to contact us as quickly as possible and arrange for a benefits check. It can be done online, over the phone or in person and it doesn't take long to do."
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick added:
"The figures are stark in terms of the number of people that both need support and in terms of work that the team are doing in helping local people. It highlights how vital council services are in helping people in West Lothian.
"Governments can provide financial support in terms of benefits, but it is the council's service that plays the leading role in ensuring that access, advice and money reaches those that need it and are entitled to it.
"The council's team are ensuring that benefits are reaching those that are both entitled to benefit support and need it most and this service is free to everyone in West Lothian. Please contact the Advice Shop if you believe that you may be entitled to benefit support. The team will ensure that you are given the right advice and it may result in you receiving the financial support that you are entitled to."