Message to David Cameron: you have no evidence the benefit system acts as a ‘magnetic pull’

There's very little evidence of the 'magnetic pull' of our benefits system. But there is evidence which suggests the Prime Minister wants to win back disillusioned Tory voters who've been attracted by UKIP.

There’s very little evidence of the ‘magnetic pull’ of our benefits system. But there is evidence which suggests the Prime Minister wants to win back disillusioned Tory voters who’ve been attracted by UKIP

Another day, another announcement about tightening benefit rules for EU migrants.

Writing in the Telegraph today, David Cameron says the “magnetic pull” of UK benefits needs addressing so that people come to Britain for the right reasons.

Immigration should “put Britain first”, he writes, before setting out plans to ensure that EU migrants will be unable to claim benefits for more than three months unless they have “clear job prospects”.

It should be obvious by now that these sorts of announcements are about politics more than they are about money. It’s about the ongoing attempt to lure back disenchanted right-wingers who have been drawn to UKIP like wasps to a jam jar.

I say that because most migrants from the EU do not come to Britain to sign on, but to work. That isn’t conjecture; it’s what the statistics say. And this is what you would expect – who spends hundreds of pounds on a flight and uproots themselves from their home and family to claim a relatively small amount of money in another country?

But Britain has the ‘most generous welfare system in Europe’, I can hear you say. Well not according to the Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre for Population Change (CPC):

Benefits generousj

There are a number of other EU countries that are just as likely as Britain (if not more so) to exercise a ‘magnetic pull’ on migrants.

EU migrants cannot simply sign on to claim Jobseekers Allowance, either, but must pass a tough Habitual Residence Test set before they can make a claim.

And importantly, Britons are significantly more likely to claim benefits than EU migrants. According to a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report from 2011, 6.4 per cent of those claiming working aged benefits were non-UK nationals, meaning British nationals were two-and-a-half times more likely to be claiming working age benefits than non-UK nationals.

UK nationals are more likely to claim benefits than foreign migrants right across the board, as the Guardian reported last year (and as the graph from FullFact demonstrates):

“Of the 2 million net migrants to the UK from the eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, just 13,000 people have claimed jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). This figure was not disputed by No 10.” – The Guardian, March 26 2013.

Full factj

Last year a European Commission report concluded that there was no evidence of systematic or widespread benefit tourism by EU nationals migrating within the EU, including to the UK.

It’s fitting that Cameron should choose the Telegraph for today’s article. Last year the paper falsely claimed that there were over 600,000 unemployed EU migrants in the UK. However as this DWP report from last year demonstrated, the number of EU migrants claiming Jobseekers Allowance – the main UK unemployment benefit – in February 2013 was 60,100 – a tenth of the number described by the Telegraph as ‘unemployed’.

‘Unemployed’ also doesn’t automatically mean ‘claiming benefits’. A European Commission report from last year found that 84 per cent of non-active EU migrants in the UK were relatives of an economically active EU national, meaning they were almost certainly mainly being provided for by spouses, partners and parents (children over 15 and students are included in the figures).

Last year the Telegraph itself was unable to find a single migrant that had come to the UK with the specific intention of claiming benefits. It could only find those who has previously worked but who had signed on after losing their job. And why shouldn’t they do that? They’ve been paying into the system, after all – and that’s at least partly what the safety net is there for in the first place – to help those who’ve made a contribution when times get tough.

In reality there is very little evidence (none that I can find) of the ‘magnetic pull’ of our benefits system. There is quite a lot of evidence, though, which suggests the Prime Minister wants to win back former Tory voters who’ve been attracted by UKIP.

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40 Responses to “Message to David Cameron: you have no evidence the benefit system acts as a ‘magnetic pull’”

  1. exworking man

    Good morning James,i have worked for the last 35 yrs visiting at least 8 homes per day 5 days a week,so i think i have the knowledge to comment(i don’t live in a middle class journalistic bubble)I didn’t represent any government body so I saw the true picture,overcrowded houses with people living in squalor having to converse wth a 10yr old because he or she was the only one who could write or speak English,please tell me how these people benefit this country ,speaking as someone who has worked for 50yrs and never claimed benefit I payed my taxes to provide a buffer for people between jobs or unable to work not to allow the liberal elite to polish there halo’s or to rub the right’s nose in it.

  2. ohforheavensake

    Sounds like you’ve been dealing with people who could benefit from a more generous welfare system.

    Just for information: I don’t live in a middle-class journalistic bubble either. But the facts are that the people you’re talking about are a small minority of the total number of immigrants; and, to be honest, the picture you paint makes me angry- not because the people are here, but because we allow them to live in the conditions you describe.

  3. exworking man

    Hi James
    you forgot to call me racist or bigot ,they choose to live like that speaking as someone who was 16 before we had a bathroom(tin bath in front of the fire,i have probably seen more poverty than you,the squalor wasn’t the places they have been given it is the way they choose to a lot of the elite you refuse to see the truth,keep polishing your halo on taxpayers money

  4. Chris Blackmore

    Racist OR bigot? You are probably both.Tell me again how people choose to live in bad conditions…

  5. exworking man

    Hi Chris
    That’s very simple you put them in a brand new flat then they turn it into a dump,i have been in places where they pull the doors off to make fires in the garden the list is endless,but read the comments about Page Hall in Sheffield If you choose to believe the halo polishers good luck,oh by the way i come from a family of immigrants who worked there way out of poverty they didn’t need your condescension

  6. ohforheavensake

    I don’t think you’re a racist or a bigot: I don’t know you, so I can’t judge.

    But just for the record: I grew up in a very poor working-class council estate in the West of Scotland. There were five of us in a very small flat: and the flats in the tenements around us were similarly full. I grew up in poverty, same as you: and I remember being told, at school, that people who lived in the conditions in which I grew up were happy with the conditions in which we lived, and that we didn’t deserve any better.

    – Oh, and by the way: I’m not James.

  7. ohforheavensake

    I can remember that the same things were said about families like mine when I was growing up. It was the wrong judgement then: it’s the wrong judgement now.

  8. exworking man

    so what did you do work your way out, or put out your hand or do you think that people aren’t capable of better unless you throw taxpayers money at them,all you end up with is the Jeremey kyle generation wanting more and more

  9. Dave Roberts

    Exworkingman. You are wasting your time. Guardian readers will never admit what you and I know to be true.

  10. Guest

    Thanks for stating your beliefs clearly – I wouldn’t have called you either, but as you’ve made it plain….

    And yes, in Somalia I’m sure you did. Why are you here, again?

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    “They”. Always “they”. No evidence, just attacks.

    And of course you’re a ladder puller, determined to block what you took advantage of in your family, as you deny the NHS exists, etc.

    That you’re rich and trying to sabotage the UK now…

  12. Guest

    You knows your FAXTS about how evil the poor and immigrant are!

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Our benefit system is illegally low paying.

    It’s now designed via the “cap” to fall sharply every three years, and JSA is by far the most conditional benefit in the West, with sanctions used as a blunt tool in every situation for punishment, while the massively expensive workfare has had to have retrospective laws passed to legalise it’s tactics of work replacement and slavery

    We’re going to see mass homelessess and grinding poverty.
    We’re in a downwards spiral of lowering productivity and wages.

    This is supposed to be a “beacon”.

    All that proves is that is that the right never satisfied with the punishment heaped on the poor, and will always uses immigrants as cheap targets. While the economy collapses because of their policies.

  14. Paul

    Living in so called social housing, you are correct ex working man, I am 64 now I’ve seen new houses were we live wrecked with in two or three months (Its as you have so rightly described?) it’s still going all the time? the people come and go the houses get repaired then wrecked again and so it goes on?

    It’s always around say 10 to20% that cause the problems there children are nothing but trash. I wouldn’t give them a cardboard box to live in! There are nowadays millions of decent people who would give there right arm for such a place to live in? who would respect it and look after it.

    Yet time after time the houses go to the dregs of our society who respect nothing or no one and the country picks up the bill. That apart they are allowed to destroy our
    neighbourhoods while at the same time making every other poor bugger life’s nothing but a misery!
    They know right from wrong but they will never change so why should we support them and allow them to do such things time after time after time? Are we mad?

  15. Guest

    Ah yes, all immigrants are magically evil, etc.

    Actually, your far right is under 10%, as you call for council housing to go to the rich. That you might see a black face in the neighbourhood trashes it, etc.

    You know right from wrong, and pick wrong on the back of your bigotry.

  16. Dave Roberts

    In English please Leon.

  17. exworking man

    what the hell are you talking about,have you thought about seeing a doctor ,do not talk to me in riddles ,I think you are mistaking me for some one else

  18. Leon Wolfeson

    That is, your inability to understand it, as you’re a foreigner with little knowledge of the language…is Monarco nice at the moment?

    Stop attacking the UK!

  19. Leon Wolfeson

    I’m not talking about your hell, the one you’re determined to force onto the British. And of course you think disagreement with you is a medical condition, typical of your far right – your view there is totalitarian and social darwinist.

    I’m not using riddles, I’m using English. That you desperately try and wiggle out of what you said is sadly typical…

  20. Just Visiting

    A couple of comments James.

    A) your graph shows Welfare costs vs GDP – it was misleading to use that as a measure of how generous a benefit system is for foreigners. It’s obvious: for example if country X were to state that foreigners can’t get benefits until they have lived there 10 years whereas in country Y it is 3 months: then country Y is more generous to foreigners no matter what the GDP ratio may be.

    B) you say that EU migrants must pass a ‘tough Habitual Residence Test’.

    But you did not say why it was ‘tough’.

    According to the CAB – the test is rather simple and not tough- and indeed until only months ago was trivially easy!

    Cab writes: “If you’re an EEA national who has come to the UK from abroad… you must satisfy the habitual residence test (HRT). ie show:

    i) you have a legal right to live in the UK. This is called the right to reside, and
    ii) you intend to settle and make it your home for the time being. This is known as habitual residence.”

    (i) is covered says the CAB if “you’re looking for work and have registered as a jobseeker at Jobcentre Plus’

    So that’s trivially easy.

    But (ii) has been getting more difficult recently:

    “From 1 January 2014 you will not be able to satisfy the conditions until you have been living here for at least three months”

    So before that – you could claim immediately!

    “Since 1 January 2014 your benefit may stop after six months of
    jobseeking unless you can provide ‘compelling’ evidence that you have a
    genuine chance of finding work.”

    It only says ‘may stop’ – not ‘will stop’.

    So prior to Jan 2014 – once on benefits, you could stay on indefinitely just as if a UK citizen.
    And indeed, CAB says that those who started before then will continue now to receive benefts despite that change.

    “Since 1 April 2014 if you’re an EEA national who is a jobseeker, or if
    you’re the family member of an EEA jobseeker, regulations mean that you
    will not be able to claim housing benefit even if you are receiving
    income-based jobseeker’s allowance.”

    Taken together – if you came here prior to Jan 2014: you would have got housing benefit and JSA too immediately.

    What to do if you fail the tests above?

    The CAB advise is a startling suggestion that will double the admin costs of your welfare – appeal and apply again even before your appeal has been heard!

    “Make a new claim for the benefit

    If you don’t satisfy the conditions of the HRT when you first claim
    benefit you could make another claim for the benefit at a later date.
    You can reapply for the benefit at the same time as challenging a
    decision. In some cases you may be able to satisfy the conditions of the
    HRT when you can show that you’ve been resident in the UK for just a
    few weeks longer.

    You don’t have to wait for the outcome of an appeal or for the
    decision to be reconsidered before you re-apply for benefits. If you’re
    told this is a reason why you can’t make a new claim, you should do so
    anyway and seek specialist advice.”

  21. Just Visiting

    James, I wonder if you have considered the health-system aspect, to coming to the UK, versus going to other EU countries.

    Might be worth you doing some research on that, for a future article.

    For example: says: of Holland:
    > Within a four month period of arriving it is mandatory to purchase health care coverage. The basic will cover general medical care, such as visits to local GP or hospital and basic dental care. Prices start at approximately €100 per month. For more extensive policy coverage, to
    suit individual needs you can shop around to find the best insurer and best price.

    >..The basic monthly fee is 60€ for the under 65s and 157€ for those aged 65 and above. However, prescriptions are not subsidised at this rate so you would pay 100% of prescription costs.

  22. Just Visiting

    Last one James I promise :<) (I've been googling for an hour. It's a shame you didn't do the same and include wider facts and numbers in your article…)

    In 2013 the Guardian said 1 in 10 of socially let house goes to migrants.
    That's an important theme here on LFF, the problem of social housing availability.

  23. Steven Preece

    It’s really very simple. This government has no interest in ‘evidence’ and picks and chooses (or should I say manipulates?) statistics to suit their political agenda. This announcement has nothing to do with migrants but more to do with dismantling the welfare state by turning the public against anyone who needs it. First they came for disabled people, then British born unemployed. Now it’s the turn of migrants and soon it’ll be the working poor who claim tax credits. Actually,.. scrap that… it’s begun already. What’s happening to our NHS is no different. Run it into the ground first then privatise it. People need to wake up.

  24. John Mangan

    Just another lie and a photo opportunity for the Prince of Lies.

  25. Neil Wilson

    It’s not so much benefit tourism as ‘low wage tourism’. Unfortunately that is not what many on the left want to hear – since they are so wedded to the idea of open borders and unlimited immigration.

    Yet the UK productivity is low, business investment is low – both of which are caused by business having unlimited access to cheap international pools of unskilled and semi-skilled labour. The number of hours demanded in the UK started to go up in 2004 at exactly the same time as unlimited access was widened.

    Immigration only really works if you are stealing high level skills from another country that they have invested time and money in. Which is a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approach.

    Improving the lot of the world poor should not involve the poor travelling thousands of miles to another country out of desperation. The poor’s lot should be improved in their communities.

    As usual it would seem that both sides of the debate are cherry picking evidence to fit their world view.

    To solve the problem we need to limit immigration along the lines of Australia and Canada *and* have a much improved social provision across the regions – preferably via a Job Guarantee and decent social housing. Then perhaps we can reverse the chase to the bottom.

    But to get there a few of the left’s sacred cows will need to be despatched.

  26. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah yes, those evil workers rights like pay and holidays. Gotta go. Free speech, who needs it…etc.

    As you spew nonsense disproved by studies, and call once more for slamming the doors shut on trade and the 99%. UK productivity is low because of your right’s domestic policies, which you then blame on the Other in a typical display of bigotry and hate.

    We have a system which turns away high-skill people who Canada and Australia would welcome, so in fact you’re calling for lowering the boundaries. Oh, and removing students from the figures entirely.

    I’m sure your “improved” social guarantee of endless workfare and six beds per crate for the poor will go over SO well as well! As you want to reverse that evil “chase” to giving workers rights, when in fact we’re above only America at this point…and even they do a lot more for their poor.

  27. Leon Wolfeson

    The Guardian repeated an incorrect figure. And?

  28. Leon Wolfeson

    And the system is set up such that that’s how things are funded. In the UK, it’s funded via general taxation. So in fact, in those countries you pay and get.

    The UK is setting things up so that you pay and don’t get, as someone who hasn’t lived here for long enough (regardless of nationality). That you need to pay for insurance on TOP of paying for the NHS!

  29. Leon Wolfeson

    Indeed. These changes are setting up principles of limitation which can and will be applied to British people. For example, if the latest restriction is ruled illegal under EU law, I’d bet on the coalition thinking they can “regretfully” apply it to everyone!

  30. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah, following the law is “startling”. Well, who knew!

  31. Steven Preece

    I see that even the Telegraph are today reporting that a greater percentage of migrants are in-work than native Britons. Of course they attempt to put their own spin on it by claiming it is evidence that EU migrants are stealing jobs. I see no problem in competition for jobs, regardless of where that competition comes from. It encourages jobseekers to improve their skills if they want to ‘win’. In turn it improves the strength and knowledge of the workforce. Employers want the ‘best person for the job’. They don’t care where the person comes from, apart from a few unscrupulous businesses.

  32. Leon Wolfeson

    Amazing how all immigrants are quantum in the Torygraph mode of thought. At the same time, they’re both non-working benefit scroungers and taking jobs from British people.

    Thing is, the studies are quite clear – the only people’s wages affected by new immigrants are other recent immigrants (5 years and under). Moreover, *that* is an argument for the living wage, not restricting immigration.

    We do have a skills problem, but that’s because – unlike most Western countries – business here is terrible about upskilling their workforce. Probably something, unfortunately, which the government needs to force them to offer to their workforce. (I’d prefer if they just did it, but they are not, so…)

  33. Shaun Mansbridge

    I have seen it myself it is how they choose to live !!!! Because that is The Way They have always lived and what they are accustomed to in there country and i mean no Malice or Disrespect to anyone but that is truly how it is in this country thanks to
    David Cameron AND HIS FUCKING GOONS. I have met and got to know many Polish Czechoslovakians Indians and Pakistanis that have turned brand new flats and houses in RIGHT shit holes selling copper wires from the Walls Hot water Immersion heaters for the copper. some Do work and dam hard to !! but all their wages leave this country and are sent home so they are slowly bleeding this once beautiful stable country bone dry and you cant tell me that is right is it????? I respect any one no matter what their race or color is as long as they respect our British traditions in our country and work positively to help this country PROSPER. NOT BLEED US DRY these people are killing this country i worked dam harm until i lost my eyesight and now to even try and get some sort of help/support ie benefits is fucking impossible because of lazy low life scrounging wankers 🙁 !!!

  34. Carl van Tonder

    Hi — the link to the CPC document is broken (“not found”). Could it please be amended?

  35. Just Visiting

    I’ve no reason to accuse the Guardian of being wrong on that figure, have you?

  36. Just Visiting

    James said it is a ‘tough’ rule, I’ve pulled out some detailed fact to argue it isn’t.
    And your comment avoids that issue?
    So do tell us your view.

  37. Leon Wolfeson

    I just did. You just don’t *like* my answer.

  38. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes. As I said. But hey, one day you might read a post of mine.

  39. Guest

    Right right, you see your buddies and blame the other. You blame them for your activities. Seen it before.

    Simply because you then offshore your loot…and blame them again…as you focus so heavily on race and colour, no coincidence. You are the one to blame for your hatreds helping to destabilised and drain this country, as you make excuses for not doing legal work, then blame the other for everything.

    You reek malice and seemingly have no respect for the law.

  40. Just Visiting

    so do you have a source to suggest that it’s not true that 1 in 10 of socially let house goes to migrants?

    And, have you any ideas as to why the Guardian missed that source, and came up with their 1 in 10 number.

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