UK’s astonishing welfare bill comes to light – 1.6m more on benefits

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It found there are now 8.7million working-age adults receiving welfare benefits – 1.2million more than would have been expected if Covid-19 had not shattered normality. The 23 percent increase in working-age claimants comes as concern mounts about labour shortages.

The CSJ claims that “poor health and disability” are the main reasons behind the soaring numbers of people on working-age welfare.

It estimates there are nearly 3.5 million claimants “under no obligation to seek a job” – many of whom have health problems and disabilities. The think tank claims this is an increase of 570,000 since 2019.

The CSJ warns it is “a profound social injustice to effectively write off the many thousands who are on sickness benefits but want to participate in employment”.

It states in a new report: “Many can’t find the opportunities right for them. Many have difficulty overcoming multiple barriers to work at once. Many just need a helping hand.

“One in three claimants on sickness benefit surveyed said they are interested in receiving work-related support.

“At a time of record vacancies – and pronounced labour shortages in several sectors – failing to help this group take advantages of the opportunities in our economy is a dereliction of duty in any fair and just society.”

Rather than increasing immigration to address gaps in the labour market, it argues that “helping this disadvantaged and too often marginalised group into work could slash current vacancies.”

The CSJ wants Universal Credit is uprated in line with inflation for the next financial year in order “to provide a fair minimum income in the face of the soaring cost of living.”

It is also pressing for the roll-out of “Universal Support” alongside Universal Credit which would help people facing particularly tough challenges to entering the workforce.

Policy director Gavin Rice said: “Since the onset of the pandemic the number of people claiming working-age benefits has surged by 23 percent to 8.7 million. Many of these, around 3.5 million, are not expected to look for work because of factors such as long-term sickness or mental health.

“However, many of these people in fact want to work – this is huge untapped potential. That’s why we need to activate Universal Support, the counterpart of Universal Credit, which through individualised, targeted support plans can help the most disadvantaged to overcome the barriers holding them back, and into jobs.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our mission is to deliver higher paid, higher quality jobs and grow the economy. Helping people return to the workforce in the right way is central to our plans to reduce work inactivity and is also the best way for people to support their families.

“Our Jobcentres work closely with employers to fill their vacancies and we urge more businesses to tap into local talent available through our Jobcentre Plus network.

“We are also providing tailored support for jobseekers, including the recent £122m expansion of employment support for people using NHS England mental health services.”

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