Numbers of housing benefit claimants at record levels

There has recently been a rapid increase in the number of housing benefit claimants who are in paid work, according to a study carried out by the Building and Social Housing Foundation. The analysis, which draws on Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data for Great Britain for 2010 and 2011, indicates that the number of housing benefit claimants reached a new high of 4.95 million in December 2011.

Key findings

  • In-work households accounted for almost all (93 per cent) of the increase in the number of claimants in 2010 and 2011.
  • In December 2011, almost 1 in 4 households who rented their accommodation, and who were in employment, received housing benefit.
  • In 2011, the number of additional in-work claimants was likely to have increased overall housing benefit expenditure by as much as £490 million.

The report reviews the factors that could be behind the rise in in-work housing benefit claimants. The most likely explanation is a general worsening of households’ financial position caused by a squeeze on pay levels, a reduction in hours of work, and high inflation.

The full report (Ben Pattison, The Growth of In-Work Housing Benefit Claimants: Evidence and Policy Implications, Building and Social Housing Foundation) is available on the Building and Social Housing Foundation website. A summary is also available as well as a related Guardian report (30 March 2012).