Universal Credit claims amongst the over 50s increase by 117% in two months

The number of Universal Credit claims made by the over 50s more than doubled in May compared with March this year, rising from 304,000 to nearly 660,000 in just two months, according to new analysis of provisional data from the Office of National Statistics by Rest Less, a jobs, money and lifestyle site for the over 50s.

The number of Universal Credit claims in May represent approximately six per cent of over 50s who are considered economically active (either in work or actively looking for work). The rise of those claiming Universal Credit in this demographic is of particular concern as it highlights the number of over 50s who have less than £16K in savings and therefore meet the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit.

Prior to the pandemic, previous research from Rest Less highlighted that those over 50 were already more likely to be in long term unemployment, than their younger counterparts, while analysis of Insolvency Data found an alarming increase in female insolvencies over the age of 65s. The sharp increase in older Universal Credit claimants shows how many over 50s are now struggling financially..

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said: “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.

‘In a year when the state pension age increases to 66, and with more over 50s claiming Universal Credit than those under 25, this is a wake up call for Government policy which in the wake of the current unemployment crisis, MUST lay out more support for getting the over 50s back into work – to help them retrain, reskill and be welcomed back into the workplace post-pandemic. Without significant training and workplace support, the fear is of a lost generation of highly talented, older workers forced permanently into a miserable and unaffordable early retirement.

“With birth rates having declined for decades, the over 50s have been the main driving force behind the success story of UK employment growth in the years leading up to the pandemic. Crucially, they will be just as essential to any recovery of the economy on the other side.”

Universal Credit Claims by Age Group (ONS Labour Market Data, 16 June 2020)

universal credit claims by age group June 2020

Case Study Details: someone who was denied Universal Credit

Sue Burton Ross, aged 66, is single and lives alone in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland.

Her role of Business Support Manager in the care sector was made redundant at the end of February. She has been job hunting ever since and starts a part-time role on Monday but is searching for another part-time role so that she can make ends meet.

Sue has applied for more than 200 jobs and has had 12 interviews. She believes that the reason she hasn’t been selected for many of these roles is due to her age.

Sue has been made redundant before as an over 50 worker and it took her six weeks to find something new. This time around, she is finding it much more difficult to find a new role: not only do employers have much more candidate choice now so many people have lost their job but Sue also doesn’t have the equipment to help her apply for all the roles she is interested in. She has previously used the library to access a PC and printer to apply for certain roles but now these are closed, she is trying to manage as best she can on her phone and tablet but is excluded from applying for certain roles – for example, she had to do a typing test for one role recently which she had to forego as she doesn’t have a keyboard. She cannot afford to buy a new laptop and printer whilst unemployed.

Sue is also a qualified fitness instructor and is considering offering her services to teach disabled kids or the over 50s in her local leisure centre when it reopens.

Sue says her mental, physical and financial wellbeing have suffered as a result of job hunting during the pandemic. She cannot access Universal Credit because she has just started taking her pension but the state pension does not cover her bills and she does not have a private pension. She therefore needs to work for as long as she can for financial reasons.

More case studies available on request.

Notes to Editors

Data is based on figures from the Office of National Statistics Labour Market overview, issued on 16 June 2020 and its experimental Claimant Count series which includes all Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and some out-of-work Universal Credit claimants. The estimates are based on the Universal Credit information available at the time of producing each figure and revised one month after initial publication. The data for May 2020 is provisional.

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About Rest Less

Rest Less (restless.co.uk) launched in December 2018 and is a membership community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life. Rest Less has thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-friendly employers across the country. Rest Less is the leading site in the UK to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path, specifically targeting the rapidly growing over 50s market.