Nearly 100 south Bristol residents took advantage of a free community event organised by their MP Karin Smyth aimed at ensuring people she represents are receiving all their financial entitlements.
Research by the Labour MP shows that around £16 million per year in Pension Credit, and upwards of £20 million in Income Support, goes unclaimed by Bristol residents each year.
So she brought together some of the city’s financial experts to give practical help to local people at The Park, Knowle on Friday 11 March.
Organisations that attended included Bristol Citizens Advice Bureau, South Bristol Advice Services, the city council’s benefits team, the Department of Work and Pensions, The Royal British Legion and WE Care and Repair. Avon Fire and Service also attended to sign people up for free home safety checks.
“I am pleased that, by bringing together some of the city’s collective expertise, scores of local people were able to get a better understanding of what they might be entitled to and how they might be able to claim what is rightfully theirs,” said
“I was really hit by the number of people who were pleased and relieved simply to have a real person to talk to: somebody who was able to help guide them through the complicated systems and websites. When you are having a hard time financially it feels so much harder to navigate the paperwork.
“Many people told me they were coming away from the event with important new information that would help them in future. Many either hadn’t previously been aware of some of the entitlements available, or had struggled to find their way around the system.”
“I will now be looking to hold further similar events in future, because it’s only right that if you work hard and contribute to society through taxes and other means, the system is then there for you when you need it.
“I’m very grateful to all the organisations that took time to share their expertise with so many of my constituents at this special event.
“Staggering amounts of money are involved, and what makes this even more striking is that it’s money that people are eligible to receive, having contributed through taxes and other means. If this was rightly claimed, just think what it could do to help the lives of those who are entitled to it. Think too of the positive impact it would have on the local economy when people spend it. I think it’s got to be worth trying to boost local take-up.”