[Apologies for the delayed post while I was moving house – normal service on the blog has now resumed!]
Two quick updates about incapacity benefit statistics:
- Spending: despite the attempts to cut spending on incapacity benefits since 2010, spending on incapacity benefits has in fact risen over time. This is detailed in a new (and otherwise quite polemic) blog post from Jonathan Portes at NIESR, and is likely to be a crucial backdrop to post-election decisions about benefits (whichever party is in power).
- Claim rates: the latest labour market figures have been released. Rather than going over the new Inclusion chart (updating the one I previously blogged about), I thought I’d put this in a slightly longer perspective, looking at trends in claim rates since 1999 using the ONS figures themselves.
As you can see, both incapacity benefit claims and long-term sickness have gone down (note that these are absolute numbers; by way of comparison, incapacity claims have gone down from 7.3% to 6.3% of the working-age population over this period). In general these two measures have tracked each other pretty closely over a decade and a half.
However, while the extent of this shouldn’t be overstated, it’s worth noting that since late 2012 there has been a slightly greater gap between these two measures (450-500,000 people, rather than around 400,000). Moreover, long-term sickness doesn’t appear to be going down any further from mid 2013 to the latest figures for Dec 2014-Feb 2015, while the number of incapacity benefit claimants has risen slightly – the first rises since 2002.
I’ll keep an eye on trends in both of these in future blog posts… Before this, I’ll blog later this week about a paper of mine that’s just been published, on something slightly different.