Under strain

Investigating trends in working-age disability and incapacity benefits

The benefits bill is frequently the subject of intense political debate. But since the pandemic, working-age health-related benefits have moved centre-stage in these discussions, as policy makers aim to understand what sits behind the historical rise in claims, and to contain future pressures too. In this briefing note – part of our Election 2024 work but also the first from a new Resolution Foundation research programme examining how disability, ill-health and the economy intersect – we investigate trends in working-age disability and incapacity benefits, asking what really sits behind the numbers that are understandably causing concern in Britain today.

The analysis in this briefing note suggests that restricting eligibility for such benefits, without fully understanding the complex set of underlying drivers, is risky in the extreme, not least because those in receipt of such benefits are financially insecure. Instead, a serious strategy to control expenditure on working-age incapacity and disability benefits requires government to understand the complex range of drivers that determine this spend.