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.
2 thoughts on “There are limited new take-up figures; they’re hard to explain.”
Anecdotally re: pensioners and HB: In the social housing sector, much effort goes in to getting new (and existing to a lesser extent) tenants on to HB; pensioners tend to receive more support, eg home visits from housing officers or indeed specialist welfare rights officers. So, from that perspective I can understand why HB take up rate for pensioners appears to be higher than the PC take up rate. HB is seen as essential, to meet substantial rent costs whereas PC may be perceived more as an “extra”. Also, claiming HB seen as less intrusive than PC? When PC was introduced in 2003, I had the task of training sheltered housing managers in an organisation which had 4000 elderly tenants. There was general disbelief at how “generous” PC was relative to working age benefits esp the capital rules. Indeed for a while many local authority HB departments continued to tell claimants that they couldn’t claim HB if they had capital in excess of £16k as the staff didn’t understand the PC capital rules. It is possible that the complex permutations of PC still have a depressing effect on potential claims c.f. HB? However I can’t offer any academic validations. As you say, it will be even more complex when the PC/HB reforms for pensioners are eventually implemented.
I accept that more advice is given in social housing – but the takeup rate in private rented housing is also, apparently, better than PC. Typically when we’re presented with starkly different figures, it turns out that they’ve been counted on a different basis, and my best guess is that this is what’s happened here. However, we can’t tell from the information we’ve been given where the HB figures come from.