This is a very important issue, so getting some facts is also very important. However getting facts is almost impossible as the government does not actually know how many EU migrants have lived in Britain for four years or less and are claiming benefits. Read this article and you will see what I mean.
One thing we do know is that EU migrants make up only a small proportion of the overall benefits caseload. They accounted for 2.5% of benefits the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) administered in 2014. The DWP analysis says EU migrants receiving “in-work” benefits cost the taxpayer £530m in 2013. That represents a modest 1.6% of the year’s total tax credit bill.
Now lets look at the problem of finding out the actual numbers. On the 11th of November 2015 Downing Street released a set of figures to the Times that claimed to show 43% of EU migrants drew benefits during their first years in the UK. This on the face of it does not sound good. However gradually the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released more data.
When it did, the figures were far less definitive – and slightly different from those initially released.
The DWP next said that between 37% and 43% of EU migrants received some sort of welfare. Not a firm figure, but a range – and quite a range. The difference between the lowest and highest percentages given equates to 40,000 people.
Also the figures relate to those claiming either in-work or out-of-work benefits and about 66% of the claimants were in work.
Added to this, there is a big problem with the data supplied by the DWP as it is based on tax credits data provided by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and HMRC defines migrant non-UK families as ones “where at least one adult is a migrant when issued with a national insurance number”. This means that any couple where one partner is a British national will be included in its data so the EU migrants “taking advantage” of the UK benefits system is likely to include thousands of British people who are part of the same family, possibly including children.
You may think that not many families would be mixed, part migrant and part British born but actually 7% of all families in Britain are composed of one British person and one foreign national.
So this means that stopping benefit payments to immigrant families would actually stop lots of British people who are part of a family containing one EU migrant from receiving benefit payments including child benefit payments. However how many this would be no one seems to know or at least they are not telling.
Trying to get exact numbers is not possible. The Guardian Newspaper has asked HMRC, the DWP and the Treasury for the figures and all have refused the freedom of information requests on this subject. The case is now with the information commissioner’s office, raising the question why the government departments are so reluctant to answer.
At the moment all we know is that only a very small percentage of the overall budget for benefits is being paid to migrants, but how many migrants and whether that is a migrant family where all members are migrants or whether the family is made up of one migrant and the rest are all British, we do not know.
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