New take-up figures are available for three benefits: Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and income related ESA (plus Income Support – there are not many claimants left). There are no figures yet for Universal Credit; it’s going to be a challenge to get credible figures on a benefit where entitlement keeps changing like the sands of the desert.
Not for the first time, however, the figures that we do have are difficult to believe. Can it be right that 80% of the people entitled to Housing Benefit (89% of those entitled in social housing, and 72% of people entitled in the private rented sector) receive it?
The most puzzling figures relate to pensioners. According to the figures 60% of the pensioners who were entitled to Pension Credit received it – but 87% of the pensioners entitled to Housing Benefit received it. These figures refer, largely, to people with similar ages and financial status. For this to be plausible, we’d need to accept that pensioners on very low incomes are less likely to claim than pensioners on slightly higher incomes, and that pensioner couples don’t show the reluctance to claim Housing Benefit that other couples do when faced with Pension Credit.
This is going to be complicated, too, by the intended reform of Housing Benefit, which for pensioners is due to be combined with Pension Credit by 2023. Watch this space.