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Notes

Out-of-work benefits

Main uses

All data about out-of-work benefits in Great Britain is now available from a single place, covering all available analyses for all the different benefits.  Clearly, therefore, this is the obvious source for any analyses of the number of benefit recipients and their characteristics.  As well as individual benefits, it also contains information about numbers receiving different combinations of benefits (termed 'client group analyses') and can therefore be used to analyse total numbers in receipt of benefits.

Unlike the Households Below Average Income data on poverty, all of the data on benefits is available at a local authority level.  Furthermore, unlike any of the other survey datasets (except for the Census), much of the information is available at a small area level.  So, using reliance on benefits as a proxy for deprivation, the benefits data can be used to look at geographic variations in the prevalence of deprivation. Indeed, it is old version of this benefits data which basically drives the 'Indices of Deprivation' in each of the home countries.

Note that this data source can only be used to estimate the numbers of adult recipients and not the number of their dependent children. Although the data purports to include numbers of children, those in receipt of some of the major benefits (e.g. Employment and Support Allowance) are always recorded as having either 'zero' or 'unknown' numbers of children.  This is because the number of children does not affect the amount of benefit to which they are entitled.  To get data on children, one therefore has to use another DWP survey.  Note that, because this latter survey is relatively small, there is some uncertainty about the reliability of the resulting estimates.

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Source

In summary:

The actual benefits dataset is not publicly available.  Rather, what is available is a whole series of tables published by the Department of Work and Pensions from the dataset.  The tabulation tool is a web page which allows the user to specify which table is required, with the results then presented in a second web page.

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General issues

When to use the tabulation tool and neighbourhood statistics

The neighbourhood statistics should only be used when the required analysis is at the sub-local authority level.  This is for two reasons: first, the neighbourhood statistics are much more limited than those available from the tabulation tool; and, second, the neighbourhood statistics are organised in large Excel spreadsheets which are much more unwieldy to use than the results from the tabulation tool.

In the tabulation tool, which tables to use

The first step in the tabulation tool is to select the benefit/scheme of interest.  There are two types of option:

For most research purposes, it will be the client group analyses that are of most interest.  This is because the precise benefits that an individual is receiving will, at least in part, be due to the vagaries of the benefits system rather than intrinsic to the individual.  So, for example, a out-of-work disabled person may be receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support or Incapacity Benefit depending on how they first entered the benefits system.

The second step is to select the type of count wanted.  Quite often, the only option is 'caseload'.

The third step is to select the rows and columns of the required table.  Examples are:

The fourth step is to select the filters which define the subset of the data to be in the table.  In principle (although not always in practice), the options here are the same as for the rows and columns in the second step but (obviously) excluding those chosen as the rows and columns.  So, for example, if local authority and statistical group were chosen as the rows and the columns, then the options for the filters comprise sex of claimant, government region, and the date.

The defined table will then be presented as a web page which can be copy/pasted in Excel.

In the neighbourhood statistics, which tables to use

The first step in the neighbourhood statistics is to select the benefit/scheme of interest.  There are two types of option:

The second step is to select the time period and geography wanted.  There are two options for geography, namely 'lower super output area' and 'ward'.  For most research purposes, it will be the 'lower super output area' geography that is of most interest.  'Lower super output areas' are a geography developed by the Office for National Statistics and used for many sub-local authority types of analysis, for example in the Index of Deprivation.  Their equivalent in Scotland are called 'data zones'.  This is for two reasons: first, unlike wards, 'lower super output areas' have similar populations and thus avoid the types of distortion than can occur in ward-level analyses, particularly given that inner city wards typically have much larger populations than rural wards; and, second, unlike wards, 'lower super output areas' do not change over time and thus allow analysis of time trends.

The defined spreadsheet can then be downloaded.

How to interpret the results

The issue here is that particular fields do not always means precisely what one might imagine them to mean and the key is always to read the fine print associated with each table.  For example:

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Specific issues

Analysis of rates rather than absolute numbers

Clearly, it will often be more useful to analysis benefits in terms of X% of the population rather than Y people and, equally clearly, this requires population estimates.  'Lower super output area' population estimates are available from the following websites: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Analysis by number of children

As discussed above, the data in the tabulation tool only counts the number of children for selected benefits and thus gives erroneous results when these benefits are combined in the client group analyses.  For example, adults in receipt of Incapacity Benefit are usually recorded as having "an unknown number of children" because the child data does not affect the benefit amount and is therefore not collected.  If a proper analysis by number of children is required, this can be done using a second Department of Work and Pensions tabulation tool based on a more in-depth analysis of 5% of claimants.  Note, however, that this data is not available below the level of local authority.

Analysis over time

The data in the tabulation tool only goes back to 1999.  If a longer time trend is required, however, similar data back to 1995 is available from a second Department of Work and Pensions tabulation tool based on a more in-depth analysis of 5% of claimants.  In doing so, note that:

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Relevant graphs on this website

UK graphs

Because the dataset is for Great Britain only, the graphs below are also for Great Britain only.

Indicator Source Graphs Comments
Out-of-work benefit levels from tabulation tool fourth and fifth Use DWP's 5% tabulation tool to estimate both the proportion of families with/without children and the split between couples and lone parents.
In receipt of out-of-work benefits from tabulation tool first and fourth Exclude those just in receipt of DLA as it is not either means-tested or an out-of-work benefit.  In line with traditional DWP methods, the 'sick or disabled' category is those in receipt of IB/SDA plus those in receipt of IS who are classified as disabled, where the latter is estimated as the lower of the numbers in the 'others on income-related benefit' statistical group and the numbers in the 'IS disabled' out-of-work statistical group from DWP's 5% tabulation tool.
second and third Based on combined IB/SDA caseload.
In long-term receipt of out-of-work benefits from tabulation tool first

Exclude those just in receipt of DLA as it is not either means-tested or an out-of-work benefit.  In line with traditional DWP methods, the 'sick or disabled' category is those in receipt of IB/SDA plus those in receipt of IS who are classified as disabled, where the latter is estimated as the numbers in the 'others on income-related benefit' statistical group.

second and third Based on combined IB/SDA caseload.
Concentrations of low income from the neighbourhood statistics website all

Obtain the numbers of working-age recipients from the client group spreadsheet and the numbers of pensioner recipients from the pension credit spreadsheet.

Use mid-year population estimate from the relevant England and Wales and Scotland websites.

Because Scottish 'data zones' are typically much smaller than English and Welsh 'lower super output areas', define the concentration groups in terms of equal populations rather than equal numbers of small areas.

Scotland and Wales graphs

These are effectively a subset of the UK graphs using government region as a filter.

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