Housing Benefit – who claims?

I’ve twice this week heard the slightly confused claim that only one in eight people on Housing Benefit is unemployed. It’s true that Housing Benefit is not an “out of work” benefit; it works much more like Tax Credits (which were designed on similar principles). It’s also true that fairly few people in the system are formally unemployed. However, that doesn’t give us a good description of what actually happens

There are 5,005,000 claimants. The figures for February 2012 identify

1,175,000 claimants on Income Support – mainly people with disabilities and lone parents
659,000 on income-related JSA
371,000 on ESA
1,067,000 on Pension Credit, and
878,000 in employment.

From other figures (including the budget statistics) we know that there are 3,366,000 claimants of working age. If we take away those who are working, we are left with 2,488,000 people on the so-called “out of work” benefits. That includes, of course, far more people who are disabled or incapacitated than those who are jobless.

It helps to round out the figures, because the dates of the figures and the ways they are counted are not quite the same, but it comes to this. Five million people claim Housing Benefit. Half of them are people of working age who are not in the labour market; the other half are either pensioners or workers.

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