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The seven myths of welfare: when will Labour destroy them?

Myths and stereotypes abound about welfare benefits, yet Labour shows no passion in refuting them as the lies they are.

Myth 1: there is a big problem with families where generations have never worked. The truth is that the Labour Force Survey shows only 0.3% where two or more generations of working age have never worked.

Myth 2: most benefits spending goes to unemployed people of working age. The is completely wrong. The biggest element of social security expenditure |(42%) goes to pensioners. Then housing benefit is next, accounting for 20%, of whom one-fifth are in work. Then 15% goes on children, through child benefit and child tax credit. Some 8% goes on disability living allowance, 4% on income support mainly for single parents and carers, 4% on employment and support allowance to those who can’t work due to sickness or disability, and 2% on carer’s allowance and maternity pay. Just 3% is spent on jobseeker’s allowance.

Myth 3: benefit fraud is high and increasing. The latest official DWP estimates show that last year just 0.7% of benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud, including a mere 0.3% for incapacity benefits. It is equally false that benefit fraud is increasing. The figures for combined fraud and customer error for JSA and income support show it halved from 9.4% in 1997-8 to only 4.8% in 2004-5.

Myth 4: it is often said that couples on benefits are better off if they split up. In fact, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that the benefits system provides very similar living standards to families irrespective whether the live together or apart.

Myth 5: the welfare bill has ballooned out of control and grew unsustainably under Labour. In fact, welfare expenditure totaled 11.6% under the Tories in 1996-7, but only 10.7% under Labour up to the crash in 2008-9.

Myth 6: it is said that most benefit claims are long-term so that claimants ‘languish in dependency’. The truth is that over the 2003-8 period leading up to the crash, only 37% received incapacity benefit long term, while 38% were on benefit for less tha one year.

Myth 7: social security benefits are too generous. In fact unemployment benefit levels fall well below what research shows most people believe should form a minimum household budget. A single adult of working age receives just 40% of the weekly minimum income standard, and a couple with two children receive only 62% of the weekly minimum.


  1. Jim says:

    There seems to be an inability for the leadership to come to terms over this and Labour are alienating many people too and it is a ticking time bomb that either needs to be accepted as one more of the “mistakes” EM talks about

  2. Richard says:

    Myth 1 – Full Fact puts the figure at 0.1% and the DWP does not have any data whatsoever of multigenerational worklessness.

    “Information on the number of children growing up in families where their parents and grandparents have never worked is not available, as there is no suitable data source which would allow us to produce a robust and representative estimate of this persistent multigenerational worklessness.”

  3. Joe Bauwens says:

    The 0.7% figure for overpayment due to fraud is almost certainly an overestimate, since the various agncies involved frequently accuse people of fraud after making errors recording changes of cercumstances; even if this in fact people have been paid less than they were entitled too. While in theory people can get such judgements overturned, in practice this is difficult and people are seldom able to battle through a hostile system.

  4. therealthunderchild says:

    Its just a pity that the very same govt gathering these figures is actively encouraging the rightwing press to promote myths the selfsame figures would disprove.
    Without any hint of irony.

  5. Teddy Mcnabb says:

    As a disabled ex-labour voter, like the 5m plus and counting natural labour voters who have abandoned Labour since 97, [ i now vote for credible alternatives with a social conscience ] the hell we are going through it was Labour the architects and the equally vile coalition the executioners. Labouru and the ConLibs can stick their self-serving, thieving, posh, privileged, careerist, elitist shit where the sun doesnt shine for thats where they belong.

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