Monday, 20 May 2013

On benefits

Here's a question: what percentage of our nation's welfare budget goes to the unemployed in the form of Jobseeker's Allowance?

a.    3 per cent
b.   30 per cent
c.   50 per cent
d.   75 per cent

The answer comes at the end of this blog

You might think from what Tory politicians say that our benefits system has a huge budget largely spent (or frittered away) on the unemployed and disabled (or the workshy and malingerers, if you read and believe the Daily Mail, but if you do that you're unlikely to have read this far.)
The Department for Work and Pensions has plenty of cash at its disposal. It's the biggest-spending government department in the UK, with a budget allocation of £166.98bn in 2011-12. 

It's also true that, of this enormous sum, £159bn was spent on benefits during that period, representing 23% of all public spending (up 1.1% on the previous year)But many people assume that most of the DWP's spending goes on unemployment or incapacity benefit. (Indeed, according to a recent TUC poll, 41% of people think that the entire welfare budget goes to unemployed people.)

The truth, not much in circulation, is that half of UK benefit spending actually goes on state pensions - £74.22bn a year, a lot more than the £48.2bn we spend on servicing our national debt.
That allocation is followed at some distance by Housing Benefit (£16.94bn) and Disability Living Allowance (£12.57bn).

Jobseeker's Allowance, perhaps surprisingly, is one of the smaller benefit allocations – £4.91bn in 2011-12, a trifling 3% of the total benefits bill. So the next time some adenoidal policy wonk from a Conservative think-tank bangs on about 'unsustainable' benefits for those most in need I expect you to shout something at the radio (or television, if you insist). Use your imagination. There's a prize for the rudest entry.

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