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Local Profiles: An Approach to Understanding Benefit Claimants - Wokingham Case Study, April 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 30 April 2012 Download PDF

Abstract

This article looks at the characteristics of benefit claimants for Wokingham local authority to illustrate how the data in ONS's Local Profiles tool can be used to broaden an understanding of the socioeconomic characteristics of an area. The analysis focuses on benefit claimants by claim type, and the age and duration profiles of claimants of out-of-work benefit. The findings show that residents in Wokingham were less likely to claim for out-of-work benefits than residents nationally or within the region. The age profile of benefit recipients in Wokingham also varied, older people in Wokingham were more likely to claim Employment Support and Allowance and Incapacity benefit and over a longer time period than younger people who were more likely to be claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

Acknowledgements

The author is grateful to Andy Bates and Robert Fry for their guidance and contribution to the making of this article from start to finish, to Cecilia Campos for her methodological feedback during the development of the article, and to Frances Sly for her editorial contribution.

Summary

This article gives an example of how ONS’s Local Profiles tool can be used to understand the socioeconomic characteristics of an area and to see how it compares with other areas.  The Local Profiles tool comprises a number of themes such as demography, employment, inclusion, and environment - and within each theme statistics are presented using tables and charts for a number of indicators.

The article looks at benefit claimants (which forms part of the indicators in the inclusion theme) and uses Wokingham local authority, located in the South East region, as an example area to explore. Wokingham is considered a desirable place to live, and the case study illustrates that even in such areas there is a need for social support through benefits for the welfare of residents.

The article uses additional data not included in the Local Profiles tool to provide a more in-depth understanding of benefit claimants in Wokingham. The aim of the article is not to provide a definitive approach to exploring the data, but to illustrate how additional data can be used to supplement the Local Profiles tool in order to gain a better understanding of benefit claimants in an area.

Wokingham is described in terms of the size and characteristics of its claimants, compared with its region and nationally as well as statistical comparator local authorities. Here are some of the key findings of the article:

  • As at February 2011, 5.6 per cent of Wokingham’s 16 to 64-year-old population claimed benefit (6,010 people),  covering largely Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance (ESA and IB), or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). This compares favourably with England (14.2 per cent) and the South East region (10.6 per cent).

  • Compared with its statistical local authority comparators, the claimant rate in Wokingham was similar to that for Hart (5.5 per cent) but lower than that for Surrey Heath (6.8 per cent).

  • In terms of the age profile of claimants of out-of-work benefit, people aged 45 to 54 in Wokingham were the largest claimant group (23 per cent of the 16 to 64 population) while people aged 16 to 24 formed the smallest claimant group (16 per cent).

  • In Wokingham, persons aged 55 to 64, followed by persons aged 45 to 54, were the age groups with the highest likelihood of claiming out-of-work benefit. The likelihood  of being a claimant of JSA decreased with age while the risk of being a claimant of ESA and IB increased with age.

  • The majority of benefit claimants in Wokingham were claiming for either less than six months, or for five or more years. This reflects the tendency for those claiming JSA to be short- term and those claiming ESA and IB to be longer-term claimants. In this respect, Wokingham was similar to England, the South East, and the two statistical comparator areas, Hart and Surrey Heath.

This study could be extended to include additional variables that have not been considered in this analysis. By including additional variables it is possible that some of the conclusions in this article may change. Similarly, the data used is a monthly snap shot (as at February 2011). Quarterly or yearly data might show different patterns than shown in this study.

1. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how the data in ONS’s Local Profiles tool covering the inclusion theme can be explored and analysed in order to broaden the understanding of benefit claimants within a local authority. This is a topic that is currently receiving attention due to the debate over reforms to the benefit system. For this analysis, Wokingham local authority has been chosen. This choice was not for any specific reason, other than as an example to demonstrate an approach to exploring local authority data. This analysis could be similarly applied to any other local authority.

The Local Profiles tool aims to help local authorities use official statistics to better understand the economic, social and environmental picture for their area, and has been developed using data that will be of use to analysts, economists and policy makers. The Local Profiles tool was initially created by ONS to assist local authorities in preparing statutory Local Economic Assessments (LEAs), but their use can be much wider.

The data presented in the Local Profiles tool covers a mixture of economic and social related themes, such as demography, employment, inclusion and environment. Indicators for these themes provide recently available data for key indicators based on existing published official statistics. Analysis is provided for all upper and lower tier local authorities within England in the form of tables, graphs, and supporting text. An additional mapping capability shows the spatial pattern of selected indicators for a chosen local authority and its surroundings.

Wokingham is located in the South East region of England (See Map 1), about 30 miles west of London. It has a population of 163,200 (ONS mid-2010 population estimate) and is densely populated with 912 persons per square kilometre, a figure around twice as high as both England and the South East region. Wokingham has good transportation links with London, Heathrow airport and the motorway network. According to the ONS Annual Population Survey for April 2010 - March 2011, 79 per cent of Wokingham's population aged 16 to 64 were in employment. The employment rates in England and the South East region for the same period were 70 and 75 per cent respectively.  The Indices of Multiple Deprivation for England (2010) show that Wokingham is one of the least deprived local authorities in the country.

The analysis is comparative in nature; Wokingham is compared with England and the South East region, and the area is additionally compared with statistical comparator local authorities, Hart and Surrey Heath. Further explanation of statistical comparator local authorities is provided later in the article.

Later sections make use of data not available from the Local Profiles tool. The aim of these sections is to build upon the data available from the tool in order to understand the characteristics of benefit claimants in more detail. In these sections, the age-structure of benefit claimants and the duration for which people claim is explored.

2. Benefit claim types and classification, data and methods

This section introduces the types of benefit people aged 16 to 64 can claim, as defined and classified by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This analysis focuses on DWP benefits; housing and council tax benefits that are administered by local councils are not considered in this study.

For statistical purposes, DWP benefit claimants are allocated into eight statistical groups. This grouping identifies claimants by the reasons for the claim and arranges them hierarchically as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Hierarchical arrangement of benefit claimants

If claimant receives  then allocated to statistical group
Jobseeker’s Allowance Jobseeker (JSA)
Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance  Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity benefits (ESA and IB)
Income Support with a child under 16 and no partner  Lone parent (LP)
Carer’s Allowance  Carer (CAR)
Other Income Support (including IS Disability Premium) or Pension Credit  Other on income related benefit (OIR)
Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Industrial Injuries benefits Disabled (DIS)
Widow’s Benefit, Bereavement Benefit or Industrial Death Benefit Bereaved (BER)

Table source: Work and Pensions

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This hierarchy assigns claimants to the top-most benefit which they receive. This ensures that each benefit claimant is counted in this hierarchy only once, permitting the estimation of the number of people claiming one or more benefit types. However, this also means that a person receiving more than one benefit type is counted in only one group. This can hide the true estimate of claimants of a particular benefit type.  For example, a person who is a lone parent and receives Incapacity Benefit would be classified as an Incapacity Benefit claimant.  For this reason the group lone parent (LP), for example, will not contain all lone parents claiming Income Support as some will be included in the ESA and Incapacity Benefits group instead. Similarly, someone receiving both Bereavement Benefit and Disability Living Allowance would be classified as Disabled.

In this article, the focus is on the number of people claiming benefit(s). For this reason, despite the above stated hierarchy of different types of claimant, data based on statistical groups are generally considered rather than the individual benefit types. If you have an interest in counts of claimants of a particular benefit then it is recommended that you should use the claim type data (which is also available from DWP via Nomis) rather than the data based on statistical groups.1

Claims covering JSA, ESA and IB, LP, and OIR are collectively referred to as out-of-work benefit claims. With the exception of the following section looking at total claimants in general, the rest of the article focuses largely on data for out-of-work claimants.

Notes for 2. Benefit claim types and classification, data and methods

  1. See also guidance about the benefit system for more details on the benefit system in the UK.

3. Persons aged 16 to 64 on benefit

This section makes use of the claimant data provided in the Local Profiles tool to describe Wokingham in terms of the number of people aged 16 to 64 claiming benefit. It shows how the data in the Local Profiles tool can be used to better understand a particular local authority in comparison with other areas.

The analysis in this section can be adapted easily to other areas of analysis. The Local Profiles tool allows you to select a theme and area for analysis. Multiple comparator areas can also be selected to compare against; areas within the corresponding county (if applicable) are selected by default.

The comparator local authorities used in this article are Surrey Heath (in Surrey) and Hart (in Hampshire), which are classified using the 2001 Local Authority Area Classification 1 as the most statistically similar local authorities to Wokingham. Wokingham is also compared with England and the South East region.

The Local Profiles tool can be used to explore the spatial patterns of various indicators. Map 1 below shows a screen shot from the tool where the percentage of 16 to 64-year-olds claiming benefit in the South East region is shown. Wokingham, Surrey Heath and Hart are highlighted.

Map 1: Spatial pattern of claimant rate

Spatial pattern of claimant rate
  

3.1. Claimants by Benefit Type

This section looks at the number of claimants and the breakdown into claim types as at February 2011. The number of claimants by benefit type expressed as a percentage of the population aged 16 to 64 is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Benefit claimant rate in Wokingham

February 2011

Benefit claimant rate in Wokingham

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For Wokingham, 5.6 per cent of its population aged 16 to 64 as at February 2011 (6,010 persons) were claiming any benefit as at February 2011. By benefit type, the most commonly claimed benefits were ESA and IB (2.3 per cent) followed by JSA (1.3 per cent). Claimants of OIR and Bereaved benefits form the smallest proportions of persons within this age group (0.1 and 0.2 per cent respectively).

The Local Profiles tool does not provide time series data on claimants, but this could be explored using an additional tool, CoTA Viewer (Change Over Time Analysis Worklessness tool). DWP time series data can be obtained from Nomis.

 

3.2. Wokingham Compared with England and the South East Region

How does Wokingham compare for benefit claimants with the national and regional figures? Comparing with the national and regional claimant figures adds context to the picture of an area, and provides a basis for possible further investigation. Figure 2 below compares Wokingham with England and the South East region in terms of the claimant rate by claimant type.

Figure 2: Claimant rate in Wokingham compared with England and the South East region

February 2011

Claimant rate in Wokingham compared with England and the South East region

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The results in Figure 2 show that residents in Wokingham for this age group were less likely to claim on the benefit system than residents throughout the South East region and nationally.  Compared with the South East region and England, the overall claimant rate for 16 to 64-year-olds was lower in Wokingham at 5.6 per cent. Persons within this age group were more than twice as likely to claim benefit in England (at 14.2 per cent) as in Wokingham. Similarly, people of this age group were nearly twice as likely to claim benefit in the South East region (at 10.6 per cent) than in Wokingham. ESA and IB followed by JSA and LP accounted for most of the percentage point difference in the overall claimant rate between all three areas.

3.3. Wokingham Compared with Statistical Comparator Areas

While comparing with national and regional figures helps to provide useful contextual information, a more meaningful comparison would be to compare a local authority with other ‘similar’ local authorities. If an area is similar to another in terms of socioeconomic and demographic structures then it could be expected that a similar proportion of the population aged 16 to 64 may also be benefit claimants.

The use of statistical comparator areas is a method used throughout this article. The 2001 Local Authority Classification was constructed from 2001 Census data covering demographic and socioeconomic variables, and each local authority was compared with every other local authority,  measuring  the similarity based on these variables to identify nearest neighbours. Wokingham’s two closest statistical neighbours are Surrey Heath and Hart.

Figure 3: Claimant rate in Wokingham compared with comparator local authorities

February 2011

Claimant rate in Wokingham compared with comparator local authorities

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Figure 3 shows that Wokingham’s overall claimant rate for persons aged 16 to 64 is very similar to Hart’s (5.6 and 5.5 per cent respectively) and is slightly lower than Surrey Heath (at 6.8 per cent). Most of this is due to differences in ESA and IB, and JSA claimant rates. Bear in mind however, that the data used are based on the hierarchical classification of claimants (Table 1). So, it is possible that these differences may not have existed in the data for separate benefits.   

3.4. The Spread of Claimants Across Small Areas

It has been shown that the proportion of people claiming benefit is considerably lower in Wokingham than in England and the South East region, while being very similar to the comparator areas. However, the figures compared are for areas as a whole and do not reflect any variability within areas. It is useful to look at variability within areas of the proportions of people claiming benefit. The Local Profiles tool provides information on the distribution of claimants in each local authority area by providing claimant rate information at the 10th and 90th percentile of the Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). Figures 4 and 5 below present the results for Wokingham, England, the South East, and each of the statistical comparator areas.

Figure 4 shows that the 10th percentile claimant rate in Wokingham was 3.2 per cent, meaning that the bottom 10 per cent of LSOAs in Wokingham (those with the lowest proportion of benefit claimants) had a claimant rate less than this. The 90th percentile rate was 8.5 per cent, meaning that the top 10 per cent of the LSOAs (ie with the highest proportion of benefit claimants) had a claimant rate that was higher. The remaining 80 per cent of the LSOAs in Wokingham had a claimant rate between 3.2 and 8.5. This gives a 90/10 ratio of 2.7, meaning that the lowest claimant rate of the upper 10 per cent LSOAs was 170 per cent higher than the highest claimant rate of the bottom 10 per cent of the LSOAs in Wokingham.2 

The corresponding 10th and 90th percentile rates for England were 5.5 and 27.3 per cent, giving a 90/10 ratio of 5, which is almost twice as high as that of Wokingham. This represents a wider range of benefit claimant rates across LSOAs in England as a whole compared with Wokingham.

A similar pattern can be seen when Wokingham is compared with the South East; the 90/10 ratio for South East is 4.4, which is greater than the corresponding figure for Wokingham. Compared with statistical comparators, the 90/10 ratio of total claimants is smaller for Wokingham than for Surrey Heath (2.6 versus 3.9), but similar to Hart (2.4).

Figure 4: Small area spread of claimants of total benefit

February 2011

Small area spread of total claimants

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For claimants of out-of-work benefit, the results in Figure 5 give a 90/10 ratio of 5.8, 5.4, 3.4, 4.9, and 3.5, for England, South East, Wokingham, Surrey Heath, and Hart, respectively. This shows a considerably narrower range of the rates in Wokingham LSOAs than for England, the South East, and Surrey Heath, but a similar range to Hart. Note also that the spread of the rates is wider for LSOAs in Surrey Heath than in Wokingham, but the difference is not as marked as that between England and the South East region.

 

Figure 5: Small area spread of claimants of out-of-work benefit

February 2011

Small area spread of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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The fact that the 90/10 ratios are higher for out-of-work benefit claimants than for total benefit claimants shows that the spread is wider for the former than for the latter.3

Notes for 3. Persons aged 16 to 64 on benefit

  1. Although this is a little out-of-date it is unlikely that there have been wholesale changes. The 2011 Area Classification will be released after the 2011 Census results are released. See National Statistics 2011 Area Classifications for further information.

  2. This measure shows how much larger the rate is for an area nine-tenths of the way up a distribution than for an area a tenth of the way up; the larger this ratio, the greater the inequality.

  3. To explore in more detail at LSOA level please use the COTA Viewer tool released as part of an ONS analysis toolkit.

4. Age profile of claimants

This section expands upon the previous analysis of data in the Local Profiles tool to look at the age distribution of the claimants, which is available separately from Nomis.  Different areas will have different age structures, which may be one reason why an area’s claimant rate is higher than another’s. This section covers an identification of the age groups with the highest claimant rates, and then the age profile of claimants. This understanding will provide a firm footing for users to develop any policy related to the age-distribution of claimants.

4.1. Age Breakdown of Out-of-work Benefit Claimants

This subsection looks at the number of claimants of out-of-work benefit in each age group as a percentage of the total number of people within that age group (Figure 6). The rate across all ages (16 to 64) is denoted by the horizontal line.

Figure 6: Age specific rate of out-of-work benefit claimants in Wokingham

February 2011

Age specific rate of out-of-work benefit claimants

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It can be seen that the average rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit in Wokingham was 4.3 per cent (representing a total of 4,610 people), but while the claimant rate varies across age groups, the variation is small. People aged 55 to 64 were the most likely to be claiming out-of-work benefit, followed by those aged 45 to 54, with rates of 4.7 and 4.4 per cent respectively.  The rate for the 55 to 64 age group was 0.4 percentage points higher than the average for Wokingham. These are the only two age groups that have a rate higher than the average rate for the area. Those aged 35 to 44 have the lowest likelihood of claiming, at just under 4 per cent.

It is also worthwhile considering the breakdown within the out-of-work benefits statistical group for Wokingham as it is likely that age will influence the type of benefit which is claimed. Figure 7 presents age-specific rates for two of the groups within the out-of-work benefits group, those claiming ESA and IB, and JSA.

Figure 7: Age specific rate of JSA and ESA and IB benefit claimants in Wokingham

February 2011

Age specific rates of JSA and ESA and IB benefit claimants

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As a proportion of their age group, people aged 55 to 64 were the most likely to claim ESA and IB, followed by those aged 45 to 54, with rates of 3.2 and 2.9 per cent, respectively. These were also the only age groups that had rates higher than the average rate for ESA and IB in the area of 2.3 per cent. 

In contrast it can be seen  that people aged under 25 were the most likely to claim JSA benefit, while those aged 55 to 64 were the least likely to claim this benefit (at 1.9 and 0.8 per cent respectively). Persons aged under 25 followed by the 25 to 34 age group were the only age groups that had rates higher than the JSA average for the area.

The rates in Figure 7 can be looked at as age specific propensities to claim benefit. It appears that the propensity to claim JSA benefit decreased with age of claimants while it increased with age for ESA and IB claimants.

Understanding the numbers of claimants in each group may also be important to any policy designed to reduce the number of claimants. Figure 8 presents the age distribution of claimants of out-of-work benefits in Wokingham.

Figure 8: Age distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefits in Wokingham

February 2011

Age distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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Figure 8 shows that the highest proportion of claimants by age group was for the 45 to 54 age group (approximately 23 per cent of all claimants). The lowest proportion of claimants was for the under 25 age group (approximately 16 per cent of all claimants). Interestingly, the 55 to 64 age group has the highest rate of claimants expressed as a percentage of the population within this age group , but we can see that this age group does not have the highest proportion of all claimants (approximately 19 per cent of all out-of-work claimants).

4.2. Wokingham Compared with England and South East Region

The purpose of this subsection is to compare the claimant rate in Wokingham with England and the South East region. The previous section looked at the age distribution of claimants in two ways: age-specific rates for each age group (to account for the age structure of the population), and another, calculating the proportion of claimants in each age-group using all claimants as the denominator. This section compares Wokingham with England and South East region in terms of the first measure only (that is the age specific rates for each age group), although it may also be useful to look at the proportion of all claimants in each age group. Figure 9 shows the age-specific out-of-work claimant rates for Wokingham, the South East, and England.

Figure 9: Age specific rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit - Wokingham compared with England and the South East

February 2011

Age specific rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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Figure 9 shows that broadly the same pattern of variance between age-specific out-of work claimant rates exists in England and the South East as for Wokingham. The higher rates of those claiming out-of-work benefits are typically for the older age groups, 45 to 54 and 55 to 64. Interestingly, the highest claimant rate for the South East was for the 25 to 34 age group, around 0.5 percentage points higher than the South East average. This differs from both Wokingham and England where the rate was lower than the average for the area.

The rate for the under 25 age group was similar to the average rate for Wokingham, but it was 1.0 and 0.5 percentage points lower than the averages for England and the South East region, respectively. 

In general, the differences between the age-specific rates and the average rates are largest for England, followed by South East region. In addition, the rates appeared to increase with age for England, but there was no clear pattern in Wokingham or the South East. 

Although the findings are not fully presented in this article, a similar analysis has been done for each out-of-work benefit type for England and the South East region.  For JSA and ESA and IB claimants, a similar pattern was found to that shown in Figure 7. The under 25 age group was the most likely to claim JSA benefits. For this benefit, the age-specific rate was higher than the average rate in each case, and the gap was widest for England, followed by the South East region. For ESA and IB claimants, the 55 to 64 age group was most likely to claim. The age-specific claimant rate was higher than the average rate, and the gap was widest for England followed by the South East region.

We would expect to see the rates for JSA claimants decreasing with age and the rates for ESA and IB claimants increasing with age in all cases. For the other areas considered, the change was generally sharpest for England followed by the South East region.

4.3. Wokingham Compared with Statistical Comparator Areas

The previous section highlighted that although comparing with national and regional figures may provide useful contextual information for a local authority, a more meaningful comparison could be done by comparing a local authority against other similar local authorities. In this section the age-specific rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit for Wokingham have been compared with Surrey Heath and Hart. The results are presented in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Age specific rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit - Wokingham compared with comparator areas

February 2011

Age specific rate of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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In Hart the 25 to 34  age group had the highest proportion of out-of-work benefit claimants, followed by the under  25 age group, whereas in Wokingham it was the 55 to 64 age group, followed by the 45 to 54  age group, with the highest proportion of out-of-work benefit claimants. With the exception of the 35 to 44 age group, the age-specific rates for all the other age groups were higher than the average for Hart.

Compared with Wokingham and Hart, Surrey Heath had a higher average claimant rate, with the under 25 age group having the highest rate, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds, at 6.5 and 5.6 per cent respectively. As in Wokingham and Surrey Heath, the 35 to 44 age group had the lowest age specific claimant rate.

5. Duration profile of claimants

This section looks at the length of time people stay on benefit. Again, it builds upon ideas presented in earlier sections and aims to explore the characteristics of benefit claimants in further detail. Understanding the duration of claiming in an area and how this compares with other areas may help inform policy decision making. The data used on duration can be obtained via Nomis.

The data distinguishes five duration time periods, namely (1) less than six months (<6M), (2) six months to less than one year (6M-<1Y), (3) one year to less than two years (1Y-<2Y), (4) two years to less than five years (2Y-<5Y), and (5) five years or above (>=5Y). As can be seen, while the time periods cover a short to long duration, the categories are not equally spaced in terms of the time period covered.

Note that as the benefit claims were ongoing when the data were collected (relating to February 2011), the eventual duration of these claims would have been different. The data presented provides a snapshot of claimant duration at a point in time. 

5.1. Duration of Stay for Out-of-work Benefit Claimants

The percentage of people on out-of-work benefit for a specified length of time is derived by dividing the number of people on out-of-work benefit in each duration category by the total number of people on out-of-work benefit, expressed as a percentage.

Figure 11: Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit in Wokingham

February 2011

Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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This figure shows that 36 per cent of out-of-work claimants were long-term claimants and had claimed for five or more years, 31 per cent had claimed for less than six months. The intermediate duration categories (6M-<1Y to 2Y-<5Y) accounted for the remaining one-third of out-of-work benefit claimants. Figure 11 suggests that there is no clear link between duration and the proportion of claimants of out-of-work benefit, although the majority of claimants were claiming for either less than six months or for five or more years.

5.2. Duration Distribution by Claim Type

The length of stay as a claimant can depend on the type of the claim type. This subsection looks at the duration distribution of claimants in each of the out-of-work benefit types. For a given out-of-work benefit type, the percentage distribution is calculated by dividing the number of people in each duration category by the total number of claimants for that benefit type.

Figure 12: Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit in Wokingham

February 2011

Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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The results are presented in Figure 12 and show that:

  • Most claimants of JSA benefit were claiming for less than six months (73 per cent) and very few were claiming for between two to less than five years (1 per cent) or five or more years (2 per cent).

  • Most claimants of ESA and IB claimants were claiming for five or more years (59 per cent).

  • The duration distribution of claimants of LP and OIR benefits were more evenly spread than those for JSA and ESA and IB claimants:

  • For LP claimants, 26 per cent were claiming  for two to less than five years, 22 per cent were claiming  for five or more years while people who claimed for less than six months, six months to less than one year, and one year to less than two years represented 17, 14, and 20 per cent respectively of LP claimants.

  • For OIR, claimants for less than six months and claimants for two years to less than five years formed 31 per cent each while those who were claiming  for six months to one year or for five or more years formed 8 per cent each. Those who were claiming  for one year to less than two years formed 23 per cent of all OIR claimants.

Based on the Wokingham February 2011 data, it appears that JSA claimants are mainly short term claimants while claimants of ESA and IB tend to be longer-term benefit claimants. Figure 13 shows more clearly that the proportion of all JSA claimants decreased with duration over the time periods considered while the proportions of all claimants of ESA and IB increased with duration.

Figure 13: Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of JSA and 'ESA & IB' benefits in Wokingham

February 2011

Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of JSA and 'ESA & IB' benefits

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5.3. Wokingham Compared with England and the South East Region

This subsection compares Wokingham with England and South East region in terms of the duration profile of claimants of out-of-work benefit. The proportions are derived in the same way as for Figure 11.

Figure 14: Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit - Wokingham compared with England and the South East region

February 2011

Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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Compared with England and South East region, Figure 14 shows Wokingham as having:

  • The highest percentage share of claimants for less than six months (31 per cent against 28 per cent for both England and the South East region).

  • The lowest percentage share of claimants for two to five years (13 per cent against 15 per cent for England and 16 per cent for the South East.

  • A similar percentage share of claimants for six months to one year, one year to two years, and five or more years.

There appears to be a geographical consistency in the percentage share of claimants by duration, with Wokingham showing similar patterns for the percentage distribution of claimants of out-of-work benefit by duration to other areas. This could be explored further by doing a similar comparison on each of the out-of-work benefit types. 

5.4. Wokingham Compared with Statistical Comparator Areas

Comparative results could be more useful if the comparison was made between similar statistical local authorities. This subsection considers the duration distribution of out-of-work claimants in Wokingham with corresponding figures for Surrey Heath and Hart (Figure 15).

Figure 15: Duration distribution (percentage) of out-of-work benefit - Wokingham compared with comparator local authorities

February 2011

Duration distribution (percentage) of claimants of out-of-work benefit

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As can be seen in Figure 15, the pattern of the duration distribution of claimants of out-of-work benefits in Wokingham was generally similar to the comparator areas, with relatively small differences in the percentage of claimants by duration. It can be seen that:

  • The percentage share of claimants for five or more years was highest in Wokingham (36 per cent compared with 34 per cent in Hart and 31 per cent in Surrey Heath).

  • The percentage share of claimants for two to five years was lowest in Wokingham (14 per cent compared with  16 per cent for Surrey Heath and Hart respectively).

Note that comparison of each of the out-of-work benefit types will not give the same pattern of duration distribution of claimants as for all out-of-work claimants. 

6. Conclusion

As stated in the introduction, the purpose of this article is to demonstrate how the data in the Local Profiles tool can be explored and analysed in order to broaden the understanding of a topic for a local authority, which in turn can help inform decision making. This has been demonstrated through the use of Wokingham local authority as a case study area, looking at the characteristics of benefits claimants using official published statistics to better understand the characteristics of these claimants and by comparing them with figures for England, the South East region, and statistical comparator areas. The approach in this article is just one among many ways of combining the data.

The analysis undertaken in Wokingham enabled a number of observations to be made regarding benefit claimant characteristics in Wokingham. It has been identified that residents in Wokingham were less likely to depend on benefits than residents in other areas of the country. Generally, in Wokingham, older people were more likely to be on out-of-work benefit than younger people, and they were more likely to claim for longer periods than younger people. In particular, older people were more likely to be on ESA and IB benefits, and claim for a longer period while younger people were more likely to be on JSA and claim for a shorter period.

The findings should not, however, be viewed as conclusive. One reason for this is that the analysis is purely descriptive and it is not exhaustive as there are a number of other data variables which could have been considered. These variables include, for instance, gender, number of children the claimants are responsible for, and ethnicity. Extending the analysis to include these variables is likely to highlight other characteristics of benefit claimants. In addition, the data used were for a particular point in time, February 2011. It is therefore possible that the findings in this article may change if data from a different point in time, or quarterly or annual data is considered. 

For purposes of comparison, the number of people claiming benefit was expressed relative to the population aged 16 to 64 within that area.  However at the time of writing mid-2011 population estimates were not available and the claimant data for February 2011 was expressed relative to the population estimates of 16 to 64-year-olds as at mid-2010. This may affect the accuracy of the claimant rate, although it is not expected that this would have a very noticeable influence.

Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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