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Four in 10 in Wales in the dark on how to access help during cost of living crisis

(Adobe Stock)

More than four in 10 people do not know how to access financial support and advice to help combat the rising cost of living, a new survey suggests.

The results come as the Welsh Government launches its awareness campaign to encourage people to check their eligibility for further financial support and advice this winter.

The Welsh Government has pledged £90 million to address immediate pressures on living costs in Wales, including its Welsh Fuel Support Scheme which means 400,000 households can claim a one-off £200 payment towards keeping their homes warm.

Ministers are now encouraging the public to ‘claim what’s yours’ by getting in touch with Advicelink Cymru, who can offer advice and help to those who are struggling to pay their bills and check whether they can access support payments or benefits. Advicelink Cymru is a Citizens Advice targeted service for people most in need of advice services, funded by the Welsh Government.

The results of an omnibus survey carried out by Beaufort Research on behalf of the Welsh Government showed that out of 1,000 people 41% agreed that “I wouldn’t know where to go to find out what benefits and financial support I might be entitled to”.

People aged 25-34 were most likely to agree they didn’t know where to go to find out this information (48%) while people aged 65 and over were the least likely to agree (33%).

Luke Young, Assistant Director at Citizens Advice Cymru, said: “The coming months will be tough for a lot of people across Wales but there is always a way forward. I’d urge anyone worried about their bills to seek out advice and guidance so they can make informed decisions.

“Through Advicelink Cymru we’ve already supported 116,174 people with 532,534 problems in the past year. We offer a quality assured advice service across Wales covering welfare benefits, debt and financial capability, housing, education, employment and discrimination. Our advisors have been able to get over £20 million worth of debts written off for struggling households.

“We can help check that you’re receiving every penny you’re entitled to. This winter, make sure you claim what’s yours.”

Elsewhere, the same survey showed that 92% respondents said they were concerned about the current cost of living– including 54% who answered that they were ‘very concerned’ – while just 8% said they were not concerned.

People aged 25-34 were the most likely to say they were concerned (96%), followed by people aged 45-54 and 55-64 (both 94%), 35-44 (93%), 16-24 (92%), while people aged 65 and over were the least likely to say they were concerned (83%).

People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, those with a long term illness, health problem or disability, women and those in the C2DE socioeconomic groups (skilled manual workers, semi and unskilled manual workers, those in casual work or on state benefits) were most likely to say they were concerned.

When asked how concerned they were about paying certain household bills nowadays, people were most concerned about paying electricity and gas bills (87% concerned), food (80%), diesel or petrol bills (73%), council tax (64%) and vehicle insurance  and maintenance (55%). Lower proportions were concerned about paying  mortgage or rent (51%), and clothing bills (44%).

Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice, said: “We’re in the midst of an unprecedented crisis and the results of this survey make clear something we have known for some time – many households across Wales are feeling anxious as they struggle to make ends meet.

“We remain committed to doing all we can with the financial levers available to us, providing targeted help to those who need it most through programmes that put money back in people’s pockets.

“At this time of year especially we know people of all ages are worried about their finances, and our previous Claim What’s Yours campaigns have helped over 8,000 people across Wales claim more than £2.7m in extra income. I would urge those struggling to check whether they too can access payments or benefits which could provide some comfort during these challenging times.”

As well as the winter fuel scheme, other support available from the Welsh Government includes free school meals and school essentials, help with childcare costs, and council tax discounts, where applicable as well as advice on debt management and signposts to wellbeing and mental health support.

This support is in addition to support from the UK Government, which is providing a one-off £650 cost-of-living payment to people who currently receive means-tested benefits; a £400 energy bills discount; £350 pensioner payment; and £150 Disability cost of living payment.

The Welsh Government is encouraging people who are concerned about their ability to pay for bills or want to check what financial support they are eligible for to contact Advicelink Cymru free by phone on 0808 250 5700.

Those who can’t hear or speak on the phone can type what they want to say by calling 18001 then 08082 505 720 via Relay UK.

For more information on the support available to residents in Wales please visit www.gov.wales/heretohelp.