DWP welcomes ‘strong figures’ on benefit claims

Fewer people are out of work and claiming benefits than a year ago, new figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show.

Hailing the “strong set of figures”, minister for employment and work reform Jim Murphy reported that claimant figures are down for all the main benefits over the past year.

In addition to fewer people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefits and lone parent benefits, there are increasing numbers of people in work and the number of vacancies is currently very high, Mr Murphy added.

The minister said: “Today’s figures show that we are delivering on our commitment to provide employment opportunities for all – more people are coming off benefits and there are more job vacancies available.

“David Freud’s review of our welfare to work strategy, published last week, will help us build on this success and tackle the challenges ahead of us.”

The number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance is down by 2,800 over the year to 922,200. The DWP also revealed last month that the number on incapacity benefits is at its lowest level for more than six years.

Over the last quarter, the number in employment rose by 18 thousand, also up 221,000 on the year.

Overall since 1997 the number on out of work benefits has fallen by around 900,000.

However, the Liberal Democrats claim those who are off benefits and now claiming tax credits are facing increasing problems.

Lib Dem work and pensions spokesman David Laws accused the government of “pushing ever more families into poverty” by demanding back overpayments, even when the Inland Revenue was at fault.

He said: “The government is bullying families into repaying debt they cannot afford.

“30,000 letters were sent out in January demanding repayment of tax credits in as little as three days, but people could not appeal because the phone lines were constantly engaged.”

Mr Laws called on the government to enact the Ombudsman’s recommendations and reintroduce fixed awards, warning “the tax credit system isn’t working and is in desperate need of reform”.