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Billions of means-tested benefits remain unclaimed each year

May 05, 2023 – entitledto
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For the past few years we have reported on the amount of income-related benefits being left unclaimed by those entitled to them.

Due to the DWP gradually reducing the amount of data it releases about take-up, the last blog we published in February 2022 wasn’t straightforward to produce but our benefits boffins came up with two ways to estimate the amounts of means-tested benefits that were potentially available to new claimants.

One of these estimates included the DWP’s data about legacy benefits and the other included our own interpretation for Universal Credit, which has never been made available.

Although no new data has been released, we are frequently asked for up-to-date figures. After all, shouting about unclaimed billions is a great way to try and encourage people to check if they are one of the millions missing out.

With this in mind, as well as the news coverage earlier this week of a Policy in Practice report about take-up, we have updated our Universal Credit based estimates below.

We have chosen just this methodology because legacy benefits are no longer available for new claims and we felt that including them could confuse the message that everyone should check if they are entitled to make a new claim.

A note about the Policy in Practice report

Before we dig into our own data, it’s interesting to see that, despite using different methodologies, our data is very similar to that published by Policy in Practice earlier this week.

Its headline figure is larger but that’s because it included several benefits we have not. These are ones where there has never been any official figures to go on (including Carer’s Allowance, where the rules for who qualifies are too complicated to make an estimate possible), and a number of allowances and social tariffs that are ‘passported’ from an entitlement to a means-tested benefit.

Despite the lack of official data, both of our reports show £7.5 to £8 billion of Universal Credit is unclaimed by around 1.2 million households. And around £3 billion of Council Tax Support is unclaimed by around 2.7 million households. Pension Credit, Housing Benefit for pensioners and Child Benefits data is comparable too.

entitledto’s estimate of unclaimed means-tested benefits

Note: We accept, of course, that our estimates below involve some speculation and if the DWP provided their own statistics on UC take-up we would use these instead.

To estimate the amount of unclaimed Universal Credit we have assumed that take-up rates for the new benefit are the same as the average for the six legacy benefits it replaces, with about 25% of eligible households failing to claim their entitlement.

Based on the most up to date statistical bulletin of the number of households claiming UC and the average (mean) amount of UC paid to households (November 2022, when 4.9 million households were on UC and the average payment was £820) we estimate this equates to just over £8 billion unclaimed.

Benefit name

Most recent date of published data

Number of entitled families not claiming

Amount unclaimed

Council Tax Support



3,050,000,000 (a)

Child Benefit

To Aug 2022


1,300,000,000 (b)

Housing Benefit
- pension age



1,000,000,000 (c)

Pension Credit



1,710,000,000 (c)

Universal Credit

To Nov 2022





 5,745,000 (d)


Further notes:

All figures, where available, are based on central estimate figures for entitled non-recipients (people who are eligible to claim but for some reason don’t).

(a) Using the mid-point of the total amount of Council Tax Benefit unclaimed in 2009/10 (between £1.7 billion and £2.42 billion) this figure has been inflated to March 2023 prices using the Bank of England Inflation Calculator.

(b) We used 2022/23 Child Benefit rates to work out the amount unclaimed as this was the financial year for the most recent data

(c) Data from 2019/20 has been inflated to March 2023 prices using the Bank of England Inflation Calculator.

(d) Not unique families, as some may be entitled to more than one benefit.

Why we need up-to-date take-up data

The DWP’s failure to provide statistics on working-age benefit take-up has already gone on too long and must not become permanent. The act of publishing official data makes the problem of low benefit take-up visible, acknowledges the issue, and if we are lucky is accompanied by an action plan to tackle it.

Failing to publish official take-up rates can too often lead to a failure to do anything. There is a stark contrast between the successful take-up campaign for Pension Credit (backed by recent take-up stats) and the silence around take-up of Universal Credit.

Moreover, we can’t learn lessons about social security design without knowing what’s happening to take-up rates. The recent history of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) illustrates these problems. Because CTB was localised in 2013, and no longer connected to the DWP, it was the first of the take-up statistics to be axed. As far as we are aware no take-up statistics have ever been produced on any of the new local schemes.

As expected, this means the issue of take-up is often not considered when local authorities’ review their schemes. Moreover, because we are unable to say whether take-up of the localised schemes is better or worse than under CTB, we can’t draw proper conclusions about the pros and cons of this benefit reform.

Ironically, HMRC’s continued publication of Child Benefit take-up statistics shows how useful these estimates can be, helping to highlight the growing problem of reduced take-up of this benefit since the 'High Income Charge' was introduced in 2013.

For individuals, it means there should be clear advice to claim Child Benefit and then repay it through the income tax system when the time comes: at worst people affected by the High Income Charge will receive an interest-free loan from the government, and they could be one of the half a million families missing out. For policy evaluation, the take-up statistics clearly illustrate the fact that selectivity (of any form) reduces benefit take-up.

Help us encourage everyone to check if they are entitled, now!

Until such time as the DWP decides to publish a full set of take-up statistics we will continue to do our best to provide our estimates to encourage people to check their entitlements.

Our free tools are here to help people quickly work out what support they may be entitled to. Please do share them with friends and family so they can check what help they may be able to claim.


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