Access to benefits in times of crisis

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Social benefits can contribute to reducing poverty, social and economic inclusion, and stabilising the economy. Nevertheless, benefits fail to do so if they do not reach their target groups. Previous research by Eurofound found that groups in vulnerable situations sometimes do not receive the benefits they are entitled to, for example with regard to public pensions, support which could prevent over-indebtedness, and free insurance or entitlements to reduced co-payments for healthcare.

Eurofound’s research project on access to benefits in times of crisis investigates the topic of ‘non-take-up’ specifically. It focuses on monetary benefits for groups in vulnerable situations, documenting and assessing initiatives aimed at reducing non-take-up, and at increasing efficiency of application procedures for administrative agencies and applicants alike.

The first step in the project was to prepare an internal working paper. The working paper presents a literature review, as well as EQLS and SILC data analysis for background understanding of variations in benefit systems across Europe. It identifies research demonstrating non-take-up for just under forty different benefits in well-over half of the EU Member States. The working paper further examines to what extent non-take-up is a problem, makes an inventory of the reasons for non-take-up, and highlights groups in particular vulnerable situations with regard to non-take-up. Lastly, it discusses the gaps in research that Eurofound’s project on access to benefits in times of crisis fills.

As part of the second phase of the project, case studies were commissioned on initiatives and policies to reduce non-take-up. These contributed to a better understanding what macro-level estimates of non-take-up mean in practice, making it possible to gauge whether non-take-up is a problem in particular countries, and for particular benefits, for which no previous research had been identified. Draft case studies were discussed in a second expert meeting, and the final versions were integrated into a final report. This report was discussed in a third expert meeting and published in September 2015. More information on its key findings is available online.

For more information on the project, please contact: Javier Bernier.

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