Tucked away in a government spreadsheet are the latest figures on the number of people claiming housing benefit. And the data shows that, contrary to David Cameron’s 2010 claim of wanting to get housing benefit spending “under control”, the system has descended into a farce; with a 51% increase in the number of in-work people claiming the benefit.
“Out of control”
In 2010, the then prime minister David Cameron said of the benefit cap, which limits the amount people can claim in housing benefit:
These are difficult changes, but I think that they are right. Everyone on jobseeker’s allowance is expected to work, and everyone knows that there is a problem when people claim jobseeker’s allowance and maximum housing benefit for long periods of time, which creates a serious disincentive to work.
We have a housing benefit bill that is out of control – up 50% over the past five years for working-age adults.
The Conservative plan was that, by limiting the amount of housing benefit people could claim, it would ‘incentivise’ them back into work. And this would, in turn, according to Cameron, “get” the housing benefit bill “under control”.
But the latest government housing benefit figures show this has not happened.
Still out of control
In May 2010, there were 650,551 working people claiming housing benefit [xls, table 6, row 28, column E]. By August of this year, the number was 985,573 [xls, row 122]. So there has been a 51% increase in the number of in-work people claiming housing benefit since May 2010.
Overall, the number of housing benefit claimants was 4.75 million in May 2010 [xls, row 28, column C]. The figure now stands at 4.41 million as of August this year [xls, row 122]. So in over seven years, the number of people claiming housing benefit has fallen by just 7%.
Meanwhile, the actual housing benefit ‘bill’ in real terms [xls, table “user interface”] (adjusted for 2016/17 inflation) was £23.32bn in 2010/11. In 2016/17, it is forecast to be £23.03bn. This means successive governments have only reduced it by 0.86%. It should, however, be noted that the forecasts suggest [xls, table “user interface”] that the housing benefit bill will be falling in future years.
Punishing the poorest
But the IFS says that government welfare reforms like the benefit cap have left, on average:
- 4.8 million people in private rental accommodation £24 a week worse off.
- 1.3 million people in social housing £19 a week worse off.
Unfortunately, the housing benefit bill has not come “under control” as Cameron hoped. Because as IFS Director Paul Johnson explains:
Rents rose, the number of renters rose, and earnings fell… the government has almost stopped building new council houses and has reduced the subsidy on the rents that social tenants pay. Since a lot of council tenants are poor, this has just led to more being spent on housing benefit.
And as Agnes Norris Keiller, also from the IFS, said of the forecast reductions in the housing benefit bill:
The current approach effectively places most of the risk of further rises in costs on to low-income tenants, and little on the housing benefit bill. While containing the cost to taxpayers, it leaves housing benefit vulnerable to becoming increasingly irrelevant with respect to its purpose: maintaining the affordability of adequate housing for those on low incomes.
All the Conservatives have done is given themselves an image of being tough on benefit claimants. The reality is that more working people are reliant on housing benefit, the overall bill has not been reduced, and those who can least afford it have been pushed further into poverty. No measure of success by any stretch of the imagination; not even Cameron’s.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
Featured image via YouTube
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?