Having been sucked in to the DWP page hosting ‘ad hoc analyses’, I’ve also been looking at an April paper on long-term benefit receipt. It’s very unusual for people who are unemployed to be continuously on benefit for long periods, but some people are frequent claimants, moving into and out of work – it’s an intrinsic part of the ‘flexible labour markets’ that the government is so keen to encourage. The presentation of the figures is confusing – all “out of work” benefits are lumped together and specific benefits are represented as percentages of percentages.
What the paper seems to show, however, is first that the numbers of people who have been claiming for at least three years of the last four is fairly static – 2.47 million in 2010, 2.51 million in 2012.
Second, most of the people who are on benefits for three out of four years are incapable of work, and it is not reasonable to expect them to. (That isn’t me saying so; it’s the specification in the statute.) That accounts for 1.7 million of the 2.5 million.
Third, the proportions of people who are unemployed seem to be growing – but this probably says more about the operation of the benefit system than it does about the client group. People are being increasingly defined as falling in a new sub-category of benefits, consisting of JSA, Income Support for Lone Parents and people with incapacities in the work-related activity group – evidently the people who the government wants to target for a return to work. That category has grown from 698,000 people in 2010 to 1,008,000 in 2012 – an increase of over 44% in two years.