The UK Government’s unemployment figures are being challenged following research by the University of Oxford which found that up to a quarter of people subject to benefit sanctions are disappearing from the unemployment register. According to the research, 500,000 people closed their claim following being sanctioned, leading the researchers to believe that unemployment figures could be up to 30,000 higher each month than official figures would suggest. Spending on Jobseekers Allowance has fallen by £1.3bn, which the Government claims is because of increasing employment levels, however, the decreased spending might be at least in part be explained by people no longer claiming the benefit. There are concerns that vulnerable people may be left without an income and that not claiming JSA may lead to them losing other benefits, such as Housing Benefit.
Having analysed data from 375 local authorities, Professor Stuckler said that: “The data clearly show that many people are not leaving JSA for work but appear to be being pushed off in unprecedented numbers in association with sanctions.”
Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has produced evidence that suggests the savings from welfare reform have not been as high as expected and have saved only £2.5bn, as opposed to the Chancellor’s aim of £19bn. There are a number of reasons for this, including increased pensions spending, high private sector rents, slow wage growth and the introduction of Personal Independence Payments. PIPs were supposed to save spending on disability benefits, but instead the replacement for DLA has increased costs by £1.6bn, reflecting long delays in the implementation of the new benefit.
More research from the University of Essex claims and London School of Economics that the UK Government has presided over a transfer of wealth from the poorest to the wealthy since entering office in 2010. The Guardian reported on Saturday that tax and benefit changes introduced since 2010 have led to a reduction in income for many of the poorest households, while the wealthier half of the population has benefited, refuting the Chancellor’s claim that ‘we are all in this together’.