More over-50s are claiming Universal Credit than under-25s

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More over-50s are claiming Universal Credit than under-25s, as older workers struggle in pandemic-hit job market

  • Number of over-50s on Universal Credit has soared to 660,000 since March
  • Many are ineligible because they have savings of £16k or draw a pension
  • How do you claim Universal Credit? Find our guide below

More over-50s are claiming Universal Credit than under-25s and the number has more than doubled to 660,000 since March, a new study shows.

The sharp increase reveals many older workers are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic, and follows recent surveys showing many might delay retirement.

But the soaring number claiming benefits fails to convey the true level of hardship,  according to Rest Less, a jobs and volunteering website for older people.

Financial worries: The number of over-50s claiming Universal Credit has more than doubled to 660,000 since March

Financial worries: The number of over-50s claiming Universal Credit has more than doubled to 660,000 since March

Many over-50s are ineligible for Universal Credit because they have savings over the £16,000 threshold or they have started drawing a pension, it points out.

Rest Less, which analysed last month’s official unemployment data, says the number of over-50s claiming Universal Credit has soared 130 per cent from around 287,000 in May 2019.

How do you apply for universal credit? Read a This is Money guide here.  

But the big jump came after the pandemic, which prompted a 117 per cent rise from 304,000 in March.

Some 523,000 18 to 24-year-olds and 1,619,000 25 to 49-year-olds claimed Universal Credit in May, and these age groups saw even bigger increases in numbers needing financial help from the Government – see below.

Universal Credit claims by age group: Office For National Statistics data, analysed by Rest Less

Universal Credit claims by age group: Office For National Statistics data, analysed by Rest Less

Rest Less says the number of Universal Credit claims from over 50s in May represents about 6 per cent of those who are considered economically active, which means they are either in work or actively looking for work.

It adds that before the pandemic, its research showed over-50s were already more likely to be in long-term unemployment than younger people.

Founder Stuart Lewis says of the number on benefits: ‘Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg as many of those unemployed in their 50s will not be eligible to claim Universal Credit.

‘The surge in older claimants highlights the extremely precarious financial situation that many of this demographic find themselves in today.

‘With eligibility criteria requiring less than £16,000 of savings to qualify, this highlights how little of a financial buffer people have been able to save, despite many having worked hard for more than three decades already.

‘Prior to the pandemic, we already knew that older workers were more likely to be in long term unemployment, were less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts and were extremely likely to face age discrimination in the recruitment process.’

Lewis says that in the year when the state pension age increases to 66, the Government should offer more to over-50s in terms of retraining and workplace support. 

‘The fear is of a lost generation of highly talented, older workers forced permanently into a miserable and unaffordable early retirement.’

Meanwhile, the pandemic could force one in five people to postpone retirement, and half of all workers say the financial hit means their pension pots will no longer deliver the income they need for a decent old age, recent studies show. 

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The furlough scheme to protect jobs covers pension contributions, but at the reduced 80 per cent rate.

Employers will have to start picking up the tab for furloughed staff’s pensions again from August 1, but this won’t affect workers themselves.

The crisis has led to a growing number of redundancies, which will also harm people’s ability to save into pensions.

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