A new campaign has been launched which aims to help low-income families take control of their finances.
The For Your Benefit campaign, run by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and funded by the Scottish Government, also seeks to challenge some of the public perceptions and stigma around personal finances.
It will focus on three key areas – benefits take-up and ensuring people can maximise their incomes, raising awareness of scams and tackling and de-stigmatising unmanageable debt.
Alongside the campaign, CAS is running a financial health check service, funded by the Scottish Government.
The check has been set up to help ensure that people are claiming the benefits they are entitled to, paying the lowest possible bills and getting access to further advice on unmanageable debt.
According to new figures released by CAS, there has been about a 40% increase in people visiting a bureau to check their eligibility for benefits.
Analysis of the charity’s database estimates that, for the first six weeks of the financial year, around 1,120 people a week visited a bureau to check their eligibility for benefits, compared to around 800 people a week in the last two quarters of the previous financial year.
CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “The Scottish Citizens Advice Network helps hundreds of thousands of people every year and what we are seeing in the early weeks of this financial year is more and more people turning to us to check what social security payments they are entitled to.
“That’s a sign of how the cost of living crisis is squeezing people’s incomes but it should also been seen as a positive step in terms of people being willing to check what they are entitled to.
“The reality is the vast majority of people believe that our welfare state is there to help people who need a hand, especially as the cost of living is soaring while wages have remained broadly the same.
“People should not feel embarrassed about claiming what they are due. That’s how the system works, we all pay in and get support when we need it.
“That’s why Citizens Advice Scotland is today launching our For Your Benefit campaign to help people take control of their finances.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government supports Citizen’s Advice Scotland’s efforts to help people to access benefits, as well as tackling stigma around debt, which is one of the reasons why we funded Citizens Advice to provide a financial health check to help people receive the money they are entitled to and avoid paying over the odds for services.
“We will also ensure that we encourage take up of all the benefits being devolved to Scotland.
“However, Universal Credit remains reserved to the UK Government. Scottish Ministers have used their limited powers in this area to enable people to pay their housing costs directly to landlords – in order to reduce rent arrears and eviction proceedings and safeguard tenancies.
“We will continue to call for a halt to Universal Credit until it is made fit for purpose.”