A Lifetime On Benefits?

by richardhutton

There have been many high-minded claims by government ministers and politicians about people who spend ‘a lifetime on benefits’ in recent years. For instance, in 2010, Employment Minister Chris Grayling fulminated about “two million people on the sick in this country… many will have been put there by a government who thought it was easier just to write people off to a lifetime on benefits”.

In 2011, Grayling again claimed that “Over the last decade thousands of people were simply abandoned to a lifetime on benefits”.

The same year, Liam Byrne scoffed at people “choosing to spend a lifetime on benefits”.

This year, Grayling’s replacement Mark Hoban declaimed that “Never again will people be consigned to a lifetime on benefits when they could be helped into work”.

So how many people have been in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance, for ten years or more?


In the same Freedom of Information response, the DWP put the number of JSA claimants at 1,471,070, as of August 2012. In reality, it was 1.57 million. Either way, this means that people who come closest to spending a lifetime on benefits amount to 0.068% of the total number. Even without considering the complexities of these peoples’ circumstances, it is obvious that political rhetoric on this issue is ridiculously overblown.