Rise in older people claiming Universal Credit

The number of older people claiming Universal Credit has gone up significantly since February, according to a new report by the Resolution Foundation which highlights Covid’s impact on younger people in particular and working families.

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The number of older people claiming Universal Credit [UC] in the last year has risen significantly, with 34,000 more people aged over 50 on the benefit since February, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The Foundation has just published a report on UC take-up since the pandemic by age and, although it has found that it is younger people and families who were most likely to turn to UC when the pandemic struck, there is evidence that older workers are now also facing significant financial worries, particularly given the extra 20 pounds a week in the benefit is due to be withdrawn at the end of September.

The report,  Age-old or new-age, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, shows that the proportion of young adults claiming income-related benefits increased from 9 to 15 per cent during the Covid crisis – a larger increase than any other age group. Meanwhile, the total number of families receiving a working-age income-related benefit (such as UC, or the legacy Jobseekers Allowance or Working Tax Credit) rose by 1.4 million in the space of 12 months to 7.5 million in February 2021, reversing a long decline in benefit receipt.

The Foundation adds that while the number of families receiving benefits has fallen in recent months – down at least 130,000 between February and May of this year – the Office for Budget Responsibility expects the number of families receiving benefits to remain higher this year and next, compared to pre-crisis levels.

Karl Handscomb, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “After a decades-long decline in the share of families receiving benefits, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a surge in claims, with 1.4 million more families now claiming support.

“The pandemic benefit surge has been driven by young people – a group who have traditionally been the least likely to claim benefits – and reflects that fact that they have been by far the hardest hit by the Covid economic crisis.

“One legacy of the pandemic is likely to be more families receiving benefits, and particularly more families receiving Universal Credit. That will mean that future decisions on UC, such as whether to keep the welcome £20 a week uplift, will have a bigger impact on family living standards than ever before.”

Alex Beer, Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation added that the report shows that the level of support offered to those who are struggling to find work varies significantly across different age groups. He said those differences should be taken into account by government when considering any changes to benefit rates.



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