Fact check on benefits - just 2.3% of the social security bill goes on unemployment

Wed, 09/10/2013 - 12:23 -- nick

Website Full Fact looks into the reality behind the headlines, and has turned its attention to benefits.

Government ministers often talk of the benefits bill and unemployment in conjoined sentences to try to plant the idea that welfare is primarily spent on worklessness.

George Osborne's infamous 'cockney accent' speech to the workers of Morrison's is a good example.

He said:

"defending every line item of welfare spending isn’t credible in the current economic environment.

"Because defending benefits that trap people in poverty and penalise work is defending the indefensible.

"The benefit system is broken; it penalises those who try to do the right thing; and the British people badly want it fixed."

The joining of the idea of a 'broken system' with unemployment is common, and, stoked by some newspapers, has proved popular with sections of the public.

But Full Fact has put some information in place of suspicion, showing through a single figure how wrong this idea is.

Only 2.3% of the £252 billion benefit bill is spent on unemployment support.

The figure bears restating: 2.3% of spending on benefits goes on unemployment.

If a politician wants to use shorthand to communicate what the welfare bill means, in order of size they should mention:

- pensions

- sickness and disability

- poverty and social exclusion

- personal social services

- housing

- family and children

Unemployment is the second-smallest category, dwarfed by the others.

The government should take notice of this and stop using unemployment as shorthand for benefits.

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