Social Security Experience Panels: benefit take-up – report

This report covers findings from research with Social Security Experience Panels members about their experiences of accessing the benefit system.

This document is part of a collection

Unaware of certain benefits

We asked participants whether they had ever come across any benefits that they were eligible for, but hadn't been aware of for a while. 

A number of participants described being unaware of different benefits in the past. These included:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS)
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)
  • Winter Fuel Payment (WFP

Participants spoke about similar experiences of discovering a specific benefit that they were entitled to by chance. 

"I went to Citizen's Advice for something completely different and they told me I was entitled to Winter Fuel Payment."

"For me, it was Attendance Allowance that I just didn't know about. I think this is a problem in the older generation. They just don't think that they are entitled to it." 

"I found out about Winter Fuel Payment from my heating provider. I had been missing out the payment for 4 years." 

Several spoke about how it was easy to not know how to maximise the benefit that they receive. 

"My next door neighbour has a disabled son. She knew about the benefit but only got the middle rate and I said that's wrong because the child is severely disabled so they should get the full thing so I told her to appeal for it. So if I hadn't told her, she wouldn't have got the full rate."

Some discussed the experiences of having to learn about the benefits system later in their life. They described experiences of struggling to know where to begin in 'an unknown land' of the benefits system.

"I've been in a position where I've had to contact social services because I had my heart attack. I was incapacitated and I was fortunate to have family members. My own daughter is a doctor and sister is a nurse so they became my secondary carers. But I felt I was relying on them to get information for me."

"It's like being parachuted into an unknown land. From my experience it's just not clear where to go. You start to try, you go to one place and get some information from there, then you go to another, but I didn't find any pathways where I could move logically. This was really difficult as I was really not well."

Information overload

Other respondents described their experiences of being overwhelmed by too much information about benefit eligibility. There was a view that there was so much information online about eligibility criteria and different benefits that it was hard to know what applied to them. Several described how the process of finding information was made more difficult by pre-existing health conditions – such as memory loss or chronic pain. 

"It's very complicated as the information is not in the one place. It's also very contradictory, like it has one thing on the one side, and what's written on the other side contradicts that."

"You have to read screens and screens of things. You have to link this, that and the other. You have to work out what you get. For me, I have short term memory problem so to actually look up housing benefit and then the DWP website, it's hard for me to remember what I've read."

"It's a maze of dead ends and false information. It's a complete mess for somebody who has a chronic pain condition and autism."


Most participants were positive about how word of mouth could help to share information with people who were eligible for benefits. However, there were several who also warned about the negative impact of information spread by word of mouth. They said that it was possible to be influenced against applying for a benefit because of things that they had heard. 

"Sometimes there's too much listening to other people. They hear one negative word of mouth and think it doesn't apply to them or they shouldn't apply."



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