Were 1.4 million stuck on out-of-work benefits under Labour?

Published: 11th Oct 2017

In brief


Under the Labour party 1.4 million people spent most of the last decade on out-of-work benefits.


According to 2010 research by the Department for Work and Pensions, 1.4 million people were on out of work benefits in nine of the last ten years.

“But let's just think about the Labour party's record on this whole issue of welfare. Under the Labour party 1.4 million people spent most of the last decade trapped on out-of-work benefits.”

Theresa May, 11 October 2017

The Prime Minister seems to be referring to the number of people on out-of-work benefits throughout the last decade under the Labour Party—so between 2000 and 2010.

A report published by the Coalition government in 2010 said: “New analysis shows that 1.4 million people in the UK have been on an out-of-work benefit for nine or more of the last 10 years.” It says that this was according to internal research by the DWP. We haven’t seen a copy of this research but we’ve asked for it.

How many people are on out-of-work benefits?

When the Labour government first came to office in May 1997 the claimant count (the number of people claiming benefits because of unemployment) was around 1.6 million. At its lowest point it was about 780,000 in February 2008 and at its highest it returned to around 1.6 million in October 2009.

If you look at all out-of-work benefits—including incapacity benefits for example—the trends are similar. Around five million people claimed these benefits in 1999 (the earliest these figures are available), and that figure was almost the same in 2010. It’s fallen to under four million since then.

These figures don’t tell us anything about how many people were on out-of-work benefits continuously from one year to the next.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of Prime Minister's Questions. Read the roundup.


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