MILLIONS of pounds in benefits are going unclaimed every year in Denbighshire.
Around £28 million a year of welfare benefits are not being collected by residents in the county.
That works out as around £288 per person, based on the latest population figures.
Charities say it is because people are either not aware of what they can claim, or fear the stigma surrounding collection of benefits.
“Benefits are an entitlement, not a hand-out or charity,” said Wyn Jones, Age Cymru’s information and advice team coordinator.
“Go and have a benefits healthcheck – find out if you’re entitled to any extra money and get help to claim it.
“Everyone’s circumstances will differ, but there have been cases where people are thousands of pounds a year better off because they had a benefits healthcheck and claimed everything they were entitled to receive.”
Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones agreed it’s vital people are aware of the benefits they can claim.
“The figures clearly show that a number of hard-pressed families are struggling financially, even though some support is available to them,” she said.
“Where the coalition government fails to act, charities are shouldering the burden. Charities such as the RNIB, whose welfare advice and support service for blind and partially sighted people I launched back in November.
“It’s really important that families check and double-check that they’re getting all the financial help that they’re entitled to.”
Denbighshire County Council’s welfare rights team has been working to reduce the figure and help people realise what they can claim
The latest figures from the council’s welfare rights team show in the six months up to October last year advisors helped 2500 people in Denbighshire gain an extra £4.7 million in social security benefits and tax credits.
“These extra millions if spent locally on goods and services will have generated and sustained many jobs,” a spokesman for the council said.
The unclaimed benefits mountain is made up of things such as pension credit, council tax benefit and housing benefit.
The figure of £28 million is highlighted in Denbighshire Citizen Advice Bureau’s (CAB) ‘Debt Survey 2012’, published this month.
“The CAB and other local organisations provide excellent benefit and financial advice for those who are struggling and I would urge people to make use of this service as it is worrying that £28 million of benefits go unclaimed in Denbighshire,”
said Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane.
This year things are set to change for those on benefits as the Government makes changes to the welfare benefit system.
One of the biggest changes is the way housing benefit is calculated for council and housing association tenants.
From April 2013 the amount of benefit paid will depend on the income you have coming in, how many people there are in the household and how many bedrooms the property has.
“Changes in the benefit system by the Tory-led coalition Government will mean things will get financially harder for large number of people in the Vale of Clwyd so it is imperative they look into what they are entitled to,” said Mr Ruane.
Paul Roberts, money advice manager at Denbighshire CAB, said: “Denbighshire CAB is ‘Welfare reform ready’ having thoroughly trained its staff and volunteers in anticipation of the major changes affecting the community.”
He added: “We carry out income maximisation checks including entitlement to income from all sources, not just welfare benefits, with clients as part of a holistic approach to those in debt.
“We also provides advice to those in work or on welfare benefits who are not in debt by looking into how they can raise their income levels to fund ever increasing household costs.”
Denbighshire residents who want independent advice or help with benefit and tax credit claims, disputes and appeals can contact the council’s welfare rights helpline on freephone 0800 1696625 on weekdays between 10am and 4pm.
All calls are free and confidential.
To contact the CAB call 08444 77 20 20 .