Benefit payments are getting less generous, new government figures reveal

·3-min read
universal credit homepage on official gov.uk website
The value of benefits has plummeted over the last decade. (PA)

The value of working age benefits in the UK is decreasing with weekly payments significantly less generous than in previous year, the latest government figures show.

As a proportion of GDP, working age benefit spending is forecast to be 4.5% in 2026-27 – significantly higher than the 1.7% level recorded in 1948-49, but down from the 5.7% spend following the financial crisis.

While the welfare state as a whole has expanded in recent decades, the generosity of the basic level of benefits has not kept up.

For example, unemployment benefit in 2022-23 is set to be at its lowest level in real terms since 1990-91 at £77.29 a week.

The government freeze on benefits between 2016 and 2020 has contributed to the fall.

Unemployment benefits are currently worth around 14% of average earnings, half the level seen in the 1980s.

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It comes as inflation continues to stick around a 40-year high, expected to peak around 11% as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Yahoo News UK looks at three commonly received benefits, and how much their value has decreased.

Jobseeker’s allowance

Jobseeker's allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are not in full-time employment and are capable of working and are looking for work.

You cannot apply for income-based JSA anymore as it is being replaced by universal credit – but if you are already receiving income-based JSA you will continue to receive it until your eligibility ends.

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JSA was £77 in 2022 – its lowest level in 10 years in real terms.

When adjusted for inflation, the value of the weekly payment has largely steadily declined since 2016, when it was the equivalent of £84.54.

Without 2015's benefit freeze, weekly JSA in April 2022 prices would have been £87.81.

Universal credit

Universal credit, which is usually paid monthly, is money towards your living costs – and it is available if you are on a low income, unable to work, or out of work.

In 2022, universal credit stood at £334.91 per month, its lowest level in 10 years when adjusted for inflation.

In 2013, monthly payments were £380.33 in 2022 prices.

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Universal credit was temporarily increased during the pandemic to a value of £453.33 in 2020 and £448.51 in 2021 due to the government's temporary £20 a week uplift.

Employment and support allowance

You can apply for employment and support allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

ESA gives you money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work or support to get back into work if you’re able to – you can apply if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.

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Like universal credit and JSA, ESA has seen a fall in the value over the last decade.

ESA in 2022 was £77 per week, its lowest level since 2009 when it was the equivalent of £89.72 in 2022 prices.

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