Does the government spend £50 billion a year on disabled people?

Published: 3rd Aug 2017

In brief

Claim

The government spends around £50 billion a year to support people with disabilities and health conditions.

Conclusion

The government spends around £50 billion on benefits which go to disabled people and people with health conditions and their carers. This includes payments that aren’t directly to do with people’s health condition such as housing benefit and income support. This figure doesn’t tell us about how individual people’s entitlements have changed due to recent changes to the benefits system.

“The government spends around £50 billion a year to support people with disabilities and health conditions.”

Department for Work and Pensions press release, 23 February 2017

The government spends around £50 billion a year on benefits that go to disabled people and people with health conditions, as well as their carers.

That’s not the same as what is spent on disability benefits. The government’s calculation is including benefits these people receive that aren’t directly related to their health condition, like housing benefit and income support.

This is a claim about total spending, it doesn’t tell us very much about how individuals in receipt of these benefits are affected or will be in the future, or how eligibility for benefit payments has changed in recent years.

It is possible to find out how many people receive each type of benefit and how much of it they receive, but as people can receive more than one benefit this won’t reflect the actual experiences of many.

£51 billion is forecast to be spent this year

The government is forecast to spend £51bn on this in in 2017/18. That’s forecast to go up overall in real terms until 2021/22.

This includes benefits which are paid wholly to disabled people and people with health conditions such as industrial injuries benefits, personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA). Others are paid wholly to carers such as carers allowance.

Some of the money included in the government’s calculation comes from the portion of spending on certain benefits which goes to disabled people and people with health conditions or their carers (although the benefits are not exclusively for them). This includes a portion of housing benefit and income support.

Government spending on benefits for people with disabilities, health conditions and their carers makes up about 2.5% of GDP and 6.4% of total government spending and is forecast to be around that until 2021/22.

So what about spending on specific benefits for disabled people?

It’s also possible to calculate how much the government spends just on the benefits which go wholly to disabled people and people with health conditions.

The government spent £39 billion on disability, incapacity and industrial injury benefits in 2017/18. That’s 76% of the total £51 billion spent. This is also forecast to continue rising until 2021/22.

Spending on the main disability benefits (DLA, PIP, and attendance allowance) is also forecast to increase in real terms from £23 billion in 2015/16 to £25 billion in 2021/22.

The claim originally dates back to 2012. Then it referred not just to benefit spending but other support, such as adult social care, free travel and home adaptations, as well.


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