Benefits Britain: How does YOUR area rank for unemployment claims?

Revealed: More than 1.1million benefit claimants risk losing free prescriptions and paid-for energy bills if they don’t look for a job…how does YOUR area compare?

  • Our interactive maps show which council areas have the most benefit claimants

More than 1.1 million people on unemployment benefits face losing handouts like free prescriptions or their welfare payments altogether if they refuse to look for work – but who is most likely to be targeted in the crackdown on the workshy?

The plans, unveiled by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of his Autumn Statement next week, target seven in 10 of the UK’s 1.57 million unemployment benefit claimants with the goal of stopping people from claiming more than 18 months of support.

MailOnline has pulled together data on local authority regions, obtained from the Official for National Statistics, to show how cities and wider regions’ benefit claimant rates vary wildly – with some communities still reeling from the pandemic.

Our analysis shows that the Birmingham City council area has the highest proportion of benefit claimants in the country, at 8.7 per cent of the working-age population aged 16-64, closely followed by Wolverhampton and the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. 

Visual representations of the data show that the highest rates of claims in Britain are clustered around the West Midlands, inner London boroughs and around West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, as well as in the Derry City council area.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, says the benefit reforms are designed to prevent ‘anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers’ from receiving handouts

Free prescriptions and dental treatment could also be cut off for the worst offenders who refuse to engage with help in finding work

The lowest claimant rates are in the Home Counties, Cambridgeshire, as well as in rural parts of northern England and Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

Our maps also show which areas have suffered the worst following the pandemic – including the London boroughs of Newham, Camden and Westminster, where claimant numbers have almost doubled, as well as the City of London.

The data – known officially as the ‘claimant count’ – covers people on Universal Credit as well as Jobseekers’ Allowance. Some of those claiming are in work.

Across Britain, 1.57million people are in receipt of one or both benefits – the Chancellor’s plans are expected to target around 1.1million of those, including those with long-term health conditions.

Among the ‘intensive’ plans to stop Brits relying on welfare touted by the Chancellor include laying on extra help for people who have yet to find a job seven weeks after signing on for Universal Credit – and the threat of stripping back benefits for those who do not look for work. 

READ MORE: Six months to find a job or say goodbye to benefits: As Chancellor reveals millions of Brits on Universal Credit will face tough new rules to access welfare – could YOU be affected?

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also vowed to give additional support to those with health conditions, with more resources for NHS Talking therapies and plans to expand the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) scheme to help those with severe mental illnesses find and stay in a job.

Mr Hunt said of the plans: ‘These changes mean there’s help and support for everyone, but for those who refuse it, there are consequences too. Anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers will lose their benefits.’ 

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride added: ‘We are rolling out the next generation of welfare reforms to help more people start, stay and succeed in work. 

‘We know the positive impact work can have, not just on our finances, but our health and wellbeing too.

‘But our message is clear: if you are fit, if you refuse to work, if you are taking taxpayers for a ride – we will take your benefits away.’

However, the plans have been criticised by some who say that the threat of sanctions will only hurt those in long-term unemployment, particularly if they are living with long-term health conditions.

In an interview with ITV News, Mr Hunt refused to say rule out withdrawing benefits from those with chronic health problems, describing the proposals as ‘a combination of carrot and stick’.

But James Taylor, of disability equality charity Scope, told the Guardian: ‘[It’s] all stick and no carrot. Where is the clear positive vision for disabled people and disability employment?’

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: ‘A healthy nation is critical to a healthy economy. But look beneath the bonnet of today’s announcement and you will see more of the same: a failing approach that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the problem.’ 

It comes after a House of Commons Library report revealed that the number of benefit claimants is still 125 per cent higher than before Covid in some parts of the UK.

Analysis of official figures lays bare the lasting impact of the pandemic on the welfare system.

The number of claimants across the UK soared from around 1.2million in March 2020 to peak at an eye-watering 2.7million in August of that year, partly due to changes in universal credit entitlement. 

It has since subsided, but the count remains 275,000 higher than pre-Covid – even though the unemployment rate has recovered to early 2020 levels. 

Many of those claiming benefits will have jobs, as UC tops up incomes for those on lower pay. The cost-of-living crisis coming hot on the heels of the pandemic dealt another major blow to people’s ability to make ends meet.

Constituency-level data compiled by the Commons Library from the latest ONS release last month shows that the national picture hides dramatic local variations.

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The claimant count has subsided since peaking in the wake of Covid, but it is still above pre-pandemic levels. And constituency-level data compiled by the Commons Library from the latest ONS release last month shows that the national picture hides dramatic local variations

Another heat map produced by the Commons Library shows the claimant rate in constituencies

Birmingham remains one of the biggest hotspots for people needing to claim benefits, with over one in 10 of the workforce in some constituencies receiving help

The figures emerged with Jeremy Hunt preparing to deliver his crucial Autumn Statement in the coming days, and Tories pushing for early tax cuts

In the UK as a whole, the claimant count – not seasonally adjusted – is running 22 per cent above the March 2020 number.

But in East Ham the increase is 123 per cent, or 4,300 people, and in Brent North 125 per cent. 

The Ealing North constituency has seen a 78 per cent rise, Enfield Southgate 75 per cent, and Harrow West 81 per cent. 

The hikes in Ilford North and South respectively are even higher at 96 per cent and 97 per cent respectively. In Luton North it is 93 per cent, in Spelthorne 103 per cent and in Woking 96 per cent. 

In the Coventry North East constituency it is 69 per cent higher, or 2,100 more people. 

In contrast, other areas such as North Durham have seen numbers of claimants fall – by 28 per cent in that case. Louth & Horncastle is down 31 per cent. 

Birmingham remains one of the biggest hotspots for people needing to claim benefits, with over one in 10 of the workforce in some constituencies receiving help.

The level is 10 per cent in Birmingham Erdington, up from 7.9 per cent before Covid, and 10.9 per cent in Birmingham Hodge Hill – from 8.1 per cent previously.

In Birmingham Ladywood it has reached 11.5 per cent, compared to 8.3 per cent in March 2020.

And in Perry Bar the rate is 11.1 per cent, an increase from 8.1 per cent. 

The figures were released as Jeremy Hunt prepares to deliver his crucial Autumn Statement in the coming weeks, with Tories pushing for early tax cuts.

However, the Chancellor has so far batted away the calls pointing to the strain on public finances and warning that inflation must be under control first.  

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