From the TUC

Housing Benefit figures show government claims are wrong

14 Nov 2012, by in Society & Welfare

I suppose it seemed like a good day to bury good news. Most media outlets only have room for one social security story at a time, and with the social policy world buzzing with discussions about the Government’s plans to shift the goalposts on child poverty the government must have hoped that no-one would notice today’s release of Housing Benefit statistics.

Last month, Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne fingered young people’s Housing Benefit for the next round of benefit cuts. As Crisis has pointed out, many young people can’t live at home but cannot afford the rent on any sort of accomodation. For young people in this position,

housing benefit is their last option and all that stands between them and homelessness.

Against this, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State argue that school leavers “are able to move directly from school to a life on housing benefit without finding a job first.” But today’s figures prove that thousands of people don’t fit this stereotype.

Firstly, most Housing Benefit claimants aren’t that young. More than half (55 per cent) are over 45 and just 7.5 per cent are under 25. I hope the government doesn’t plan to stop young people with children from being able to pay the rent – but a majority of young HB claimants have children (204,000 out of 381,000). In fact, under 25s without children make up just 3.5 per cent of all claimants.

Secondly, the government likes to give the impression that everyone on HB is out of work. Of course that’s true of nearly all the million-plus claimants over retirement age – more than a fifth of all HB claimants. But nearly a quarter – 23.2 per cent – of working age claimants are in employment. And the working poor have accounted for a rising share of HB claims ever since the recession started:

And most of the rest are out of work for very good reasons – they are disabled, looking after small children or trying to find a job.

Today’s figures also show how much a typical HB claimant gets. The newspapers have been full of stories about people getting £100,000 a year in Housing Benefit; the average is actually £4,650 – which goes, of course, to the landlord. Last week, Full Fact investigated how many people are actually getting £100,000; they found that “around five” families receive this much.

That may be an abuse (when the numbers are this small you need to have some details about individual cases to make a judgement) but it’s hardly the basis for a benefit reform that will hammer hundreds of thousands of people.

5 Responses to Housing Benefit figures show government claims are wrong

  1. @FairWelfare
    Nov 15th 2012, 10:38 am

    Hi Richard.

    The source of the story about £100,000 HB claims came down to a statement on a FOI report.

    The number claiming this amount was stated as “less than 5, to the nearest 10”. “Less than 5” means it is 0-4. “To the nearest 10” means that the actual number in the data is 0.

    Zero, 0, nada, zilch, no-one. No-one claims this amount.

  2. Vanessa
    Nov 15th 2012, 1:07 pm

    Under 25s includes gradutes who may have stayed on where they went to University and could well be doing whatever job they can get while they look for a gradute job. Are they meant to quit work to return to a parental home which may no longer have room for them (which could include parents that are in social housing and needed to avoid the bedroom tax so downsized). Then there are those with chldren (who the government will assume the mother got pregnant just to get a house and is a single mum who never even lived with the dad and probably doesn’t know who he is) leaving married couples with one or more children having to try to live under the roof of one of the couple’s parents until the couple reach 25 in potentially a small single room.

  3. Mark Ridley
    Nov 16th 2012, 4:49 pm

    There is no way that the government have thought this through.

    If a 24 year old has to move in with their parents, and their parents are on housing benefit, are the parents entitled to live in a bigger house and claim accordingly?

    Who gets housing benefit money? Landlords, and mortgage providers. What effect will these changes have on them?

    Isn’t HB about to be replaced by Univeral Credit anyway?

    As we’ve come to expect from the coalition – back of the envelope thinking.

  4. Mark Ridley
    Nov 16th 2012, 4:50 pm

    I put bullet points in that boo! Should have read the small print.

  5. Sally Weeks
    Dec 1st 2012, 8:03 pm

    It does seem like housing benefit is a ruse to support establishment landlords.

    I have been trying to evict a tenant who (I did not know) has illegally claimed over £100,000 in housing benefit over 10 years. No one is interested in investigating even though I provided proof of the fraud, neither council nor home secretary. The tennant believes it is normal to claim housing benefit & that ‘everyone does it’. It is clear that it is too easy to get housing benefit. This tenant lives in a top West End (Central London) address and no one at the council did any more verification of his housing benefit claim than read the form all whilst this guy was sub-letting his council flat. Cross checking his claim would therefore be EASY.

    Neither the police nor my solicitor can ‘interest’ the council or home secretary in investigating this fraudulent clai