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Around 300,000 unemployed or very low earners, many of them older women, are missing out on benefits worth at least £73 a week, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.
Falling through the cracks examines official unemployment statistics and claimant count data and identifies around 300,000 people in need of financial support who aren’t claiming unemployment benefits that they are entitled to. The group of the ‘forgotten unemployed’ mostly comprises older people (especially women aged 55-64) and younger men.
Most are unemployed, but a significant minority are in work but on such low hours that they are still entitled to out-of-work support, says the report. Individuals are able to earn up to £80 a week and still claim Jobseekers Allowance, or £116 a week under Universal Credit.
The Resolution Foundation says members of this group are missing out on at least £73.10 a week (the current value of Jobseekers Allowance/standard Universal Credit allowance for those aged 25 and over). However, they could potentially be missing out on far more if they are also entitled to passported benefits such as maternity grants, energy discounts and free school meals, says the report.
It states that one of the reasons why this group has been forgotten has been due to policy makers largely ignoring the growing gap between the number of unemployed people and the number claiming unemployment benefits that has emerged since the late 1990s.
The report notes that there are a number of reasons for this growing gap – including an increasing share of unemployed people who have good reason to not claim benefits. It notes, for example, that two in five unemployed people today are either living with a working partner or at home with their parents (up from around one in four in 1996) and therefore have other sources of income.
However, the Foundation says that it is time that the 300,000 forgotten unemployed people who do need to claim benefits but don’t are acknowledged – both in the official unemployment statistics and in terms of government support.
The report calls on the government to do more to boost benefit take-up by those in need of support, arguing that the ongoing roll-out of Universal Credit provides an opportunity to refocus on those at the margins of the labour market. To support this, the Foundation is calling on the Office for National Statistics to identify a new proxy measure of people eligible and in need of support.
*To check what benefits you might be entitled to, go to www.turn2us.org.uk. They have an online benefits calculator which will let you know your entitlement.