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Money

You could be entitled to free money – here’s how

Take control of your finances and maximise your income.

Furlough ends in September and many people are facing uncertainty about their job. But you could be entitled to up to £25,000 extra annual income thanks to free services helping people manage their money and overcome debt.

Every year people miss out on billions of pounds of free money they are entitled to but unaware of, including benefits, grants and help for bills and debts, according to financial specialists IncomeMax.

So how can you find out what support is out there just waiting to be collected? The Big Issue asked the experts.

What free money am I entitled to?

Depending on your circumstances, you could be due universal credit payments, council tax support and money towards household bills.

You may also be entitled to funds towards children, disabilities and caring responsibilities.

Take control of your finances

There are a number of different charities and social enterprises designed to help people get the loans, grants and benefits they have a right to access but might not know about.

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IncomeMax is a social enterprise which has been helping people since 2009, and this summer they are offering free, confidential advice through the Bounce Back campaign until August 8.

The first step is to register. You’ll then receive a checklist that will help you maximise your income and provide resources to help with your finances. Anyone with extra needs will be able to chat to an expert to receive confidential advice online or by phone.

Eight out of 10 people who get in touch find they are entitled to free money, according to IncomeMax. Since 2009, £30 million in new income for people has been generated by working with the social enterprise.

According to IncomeMax: “It’s not uncommon for us to find people £16,000 to £25,000 extra annual income. Signing up takes just two minutes and gets you our exclusive Bounce Back checklist to maximise your income, packed full of links to extra tools, resources and information to help you level up your finances.”

Lee Healey, chief executive and founder, said: “At IncomeMax we want to do everything we can to help people level up their finances and bounce back from the pandemic.

“We have made our digital Bounce Back service completely free and as quick and easy to use as possible so that we can bring income maximisation to the nation, and help thousands more people access the support that they need to recover.”

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Turn2us has a free benefits calculator where you can check what free money you’re entitled to. According to the charity, more than two million people have used the calculator to find information they deserve and need.

According to the charity’s latest research, more than seven million people are still missing out on an unclaimed £15.1bn of benefits, with 45 per cent of people having never checked what benefits they are eligible for.

Sonya Ruparel, director of programmes and partnerships, said: “There is an endemic issue of unclaimed benefits in the UK. The confusing, sometimes hostile, and often stigmatising world of social security has led to millions of people not claiming their entitlements. Our new tool sets out to simplify, de-mystify and compassionately support people to access the money they are due.

“Everyone who goes on to claim the benefits our calculator tells them they are entitled to receives an average of £5,320 a year. It is so important for people to check. We urge everyone to do a benefit calculation every six months as part of a regular financial health check.”

Sara Willcocks, head of external affairs, added: “As furlough and other schemes come to an end, it is vital that people find out what other support they can access. Millions of us are currently missing out on thousands of pounds worth of benefits. It is so important for people to do a benefit calculation and make sure they are not missing out.

“If anyone is struggling with money and unsure of what to do, they should reach out to Turn2us and we can support them through the process.”

Policy In Practice is another service which provides a free budgeting and benefits calculator. It also offers advice on what to do if your income has been affected by the pandemic.

Deven Ghelani, director of the social policy software and analytics company, said: “Many people have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and have needed the support of the welfare system, perhaps for the first time.

“When I first had to claim, I found the system was complex, confusing and I missed out on support.

“That’s why I started Policy in Practice, and built a free benefits calculator to help people understand what support you can claim to get back on your feet.”

There is also a free benefits calculator available from entitledto, giving a step-by-step guide through things like tax credits depending on people’s individual circumstances.

Entitledto says: “We believe that everyone living in the UK should be able to understand what their legitimate entitlements are and honestly claim that amount from government – social security is a key aspect of our society and a vital part of our modern communities.” Entitledto also offers help for people affected by the pandemic.

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