According to IFS, the amount spent on social security benefits in the 2009-10 year was £188 billion, and made up 28% of government spending.
"In 2009–10, about £188 billion was spent on social security benefits in Great Britain
(henceforth GB).4 This amounts to approximately £3,139 for every man, woman and
child in the country, and represents 28.1 per cent of total government expenditure
(13.74 per cent of GDP).5 Expenditure on social security represents by far the largest
single function of government spending, the next largest being expenditure on
health (which accounts for 17.8 per cent of total expenditure).
Approximately 30 million people in the UK – approximately half the total population
– receive income from at least one social security benefit."
I realise unemployment benefits are only a small part of this sum. Working tax credits are are paid to millions of people according to the same report, and presumably they may also get the run on benefits that arise from claiming WTC, like housing benefit etc.The Labour government, to their credit, did a good job of stopping the easy identification of welfare recipients, by introducing things like paying the benefits directly into bank accounts, doing away with any kind of voucher, and even changing the name of various benefits to things like "tax credits". I guess it's just that we all know a few people who seem to be taking the p1ss when it comes to claiming what they are entitled to. People who don't work more than 16 hours a week because that's all they need to work to get access to WTC and all the attendant benefits. People who work for themselves and earn very little, secure in the knowledge that other taxpayers will top up their income. The minimum income guarantee used to apply to pensioners, but nowadays it applies to everybody.
It's not just the working poor who are potentially rorting the system. There are people who don't feel up to it mentally, so don't work. You can't expect people who struggle with their own mental health - e.g. maybe they get depressed from time to time - and still work full time to feel good about other people's choices. For every person who is off with a bad back, there are probably 2 who often experience back pain, but just work through it. Just because rorting the system is legal doesn't make it right.