How to find out about the benefits system and the support available
Unaware of the support available
Many participants said that they did not have regular sources of reliable information about social security.
Older participants said they did not know about benefits because they were socially isolated. These participants talked about:
- Not knowing anyone who had applied in the past
- Not knowing which organisations to go to
- Not being able to access online information
- Being suspicious about online hacking or fraud
"I think I’m quite isolated from situations where information would be available. When I’m out, I’m at the Mosque. Otherwise, I’m not able to get out due to my bad health."
"After buying products online, I no longer trust the technology. There’s lots of tech crime, stealing people’s details, stealing their savings. You become less trusting of people you think are helpers."
Other participants said they knew a little about the benefits system. But they described feeling confused about what they could apply for.
Some talked about a lack of clear information about eligibility criteria. Others described being unsure about which organisations provided different benefits.
"All of this is a jungle. I just go around in circles. Not sure who to contact and who is charge of what."
"Many years ago there were charities that provided information. But now these organisations have disappeared so people have no idea."
"I look, but it’s hard to keep track of when benefits change."
Ways of finding out about specific benefits
Other participants knew more about the benefits system. These participants described various ways that they had learnt about benefits they might be entitled to.
Some had used their local Job Centre to find out about specific benefits.
Others had used Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Several said they had gone to their local council.
Others had learnt about benefits from health visitors.
Many said that they found out about specific benefits from government websites and social media.
However, most participants – across both younger and older groups - agreed that word of mouth was the best way to hear about benefits.
Many described hearing about benefits through friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, local community centres, and schools.
"As a community, we’d mostly find out through word of mouth. I would keep an eye out for benefit information for someone else who I knew wasn’t looking. I know people who only trust the advice from friends and other social groups."
"You can never find it online. My son started school and there was a grant that I applied for. But no-one told me apart from my friend. I wouldn’t have known otherwise."
Many described trusting word of mouth more than any of type of information that was online, or in a leaflet, or a letter. These participants felt that local advice and local stories from friends, family, and neighbours were trustworthy.
Many spoke about being reluctant to use mainstream UK organisations as sources of information. For example, the Jobcentre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
There was a view that it was easier to trust local organisations.
"I run an elderly lunch club. I arrange days where people can come in and talk and sometimes hear information. This is often the only way they would find out about anything. "
"I receive most of my information through friends, or when I go to our outreach centre."
A few said that they had found out about benefits that they were entitled to by chance. These participants said that they had been lucky to find out information by attending events or receiving advice from a stranger.
"I didn’t know about benefits until I attended an event in the town five years ago. Someone saw me walking down the stairs with a stick, and asked if I knew that I was entitled to support."
"I didn’t know about the money to help out with funerals. Feel lucky to have found out about it today."
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