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Benefits: Incapacity Benefit

Volume 707: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government with reference to a report in the Sunday Times on 7 December 2008, why the areas of (a) Breckfield in Liverpool, (b) Castle Swansea and (c) Central and Falinge in Rochdale have higher than average incapacity benefit rates; and what steps they are taking to investigate this. [HL510]

Estimates of the proportion of the working age population on incapacity benefits for lower super output areas, which are the basis for the article in the Sunday Times referred to in the Question, were calculated using Department for Work and Pensions incapacity benefits caseload figures and experimental working age population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Estimates of the proportion of the working age population on incapacity benefits at this level of geography are not published or monitored by the Department for Work and Pensions and should be treated with caution. This is because benefit data are rounded to multiples of five so the percentages are approximate and only represent a snapshot at a point in time which may or may not be representative of the area; a more complete analysis would consider a longer trend.

There is known geographical variation in the percentage of the working age population that claims incapacity benefits: from 11 per cent in Wales to 5 per cent in the south-east. The percentage tends to be high in areas where heavy industry and mining used to be the major employer, but have since declined.

However, Department for Work and Pensions employment programmes, including the successful Pathways to Work programme, are primarily focused on individuals, so areas with high levels of benefit claimants will generally receive higher levels of government support.