Benefits & welfare reform

Key findings


of Londoners claimed an out-of-work benefit in 2016. This is a lower proportion than the rest of England.


of unemployed Londoners claimed Job Seeker's Allowance or Universal Credit in 2016.


benefits sanctions in 2016 - down from 130,000 in 2012. But the sanction rate is rising for Universal Credit.


The social security system has a major impact on poverty because benefits are a key income component for poorer families, both in-work and out-of-work. Benefit payments made up 46% of disposable income on average for a UK family in the bottom fifth of the income distribution in 2015/2016. As such, low income families are greatly affected by changes/reductions to social security benefits. 

This set of indicators highlights the reduced generosity of the welfare system and the removal of some protections for those at the bottom of the income distribution. 

The Coalition and Conservative Governments have implemented a major programme of cuts and changes since 2010. Some of these were made directly to the current benefit system, for example through the 'bedroom tax' (or 'underoccupation penalty'); others are coming into effect as claimants move to Universal Credit, which is slowly being rolled out to replace six means-tested benefits. In addition, benefits have been frozen until 2020, but inflation means that benefit incomes will be reduced in real terms.

The proportion of the working age population claiming out-of-work benefits in London has dropped to 8%, compared to 12% in 2010. The percentage of unemployed people who claim benefits has fallen during this time though, suggesting that there is a widening gap between benefit receipt and benefit need. The benefit cap, introduced in 2013 and reduced further in 2016, affected 15,300 households in 2017 – particularly affecting families with children. The number of benefit sanctions across London has reduced significantly from its peak in 2012, down to 40,000. This may rise again if the Universal Credit sanction rate does not go down as it is rolled out further though, because the sanction rate for Universal Credit in 2016 was 6% - higher than the Job Seeker's Allowance sanction rate has ever been.

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