107% of new tenants on HB are working – You what?

There are plenty of false perceptions coming out about Housing Benefit claimants today and mainly thanks to an article in Inside Housing entitled “Majority of new Housing Benefit claimants in work.”  This factually correct headline stems from a research report published by the Building and Social Housing Federation (BSHF).

I have seen many tweets today stating the majority of HB claimants are in work and this is not the case at all.  Of the 4.95m HB claimants only 865,200 are definitively in work and this represents just 17.5% and so the majority of HB claimants are clearly not in work, yet even that is misleading as the 4.95m figure includes non-working groups such as pensioners which make up about one-third of the total figure and so approximately 26% of working age HB claimants are in work.

The IH article cites the correct figures from the official DWP statistics that since BHHF report states that since January 2010 the HB claimant numbers have increased by 300,160 and the number of HB claimants in work has risen by 279,470 in this time – so 93.11% of new claimants since January 2010 are in work.

The BSHF research simply reports the official DWP figures and throws in ONS and DWP projections to recommend that DWP commissions some further research into a number of issues.   These are the same issues I have been raising in my blogs on each month’s HB figures such as (a) increased cost to HB bill (from September 2011); (b) rising trend of working claimants in December 2011; and (c) the emerging evidence of a HB diaspora from London boroughs I mentioned in November 2011

The BSHF report doesn’t note or comment that the coalitions HB cost target is £18.8bn this being £2bn less than the inherited £20.8bn from May 2010 which was set out in June 2010 by the DWP and as it now stands at £22.5bn it is already £3.7bn above this target and has risen every month since the election.

It’s of note here that last week’s budget included the vague almost throwaway comment that a further £10bn per year savings will be needed in 2016.  We must presume that this £10bn figure assumes that forecasts for savings will be met yet with HB already £3.7bn over target and the affordable rent model likely to add over a billion pounds a year more than DWP of Shapps expects then the £10bn figure is a chronic underestimate.

However the trend of more and more working claimants needing to claim HB is significant.  In my monthly posts I have always used the election date of May 2010 as a reference point and not January 2010 as in the BSHF report.  To keep that consistent we see that from May 2010 to December 2011 (latest HB figures) that the number of overall HB claimants has risen by 200,730 (4.751m to 4.952m) yet the number of working claimants has risen by 214,650 from (650,550 to 865,200).

Can hardly draft a headline that 107% of new HB claimants are in work can you?  Yet that is what has happened.

More information on the latest official HB stats here

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