UK Social security budget

A look at how much the UK government spend on social security, benefits and welfare payments.

Note. I found it very difficult to find stats on how much the government spends on various benefits. The most helpful places were.

Headline stats

Total public spending 2013/14 – £686 billion.

  • Social security budget- £251 billion 37% of 2013/14 spending
  • State pensions account for £83 billion
  • Welfare spending of £168 billion or roughly 25% of budget
  • Benefit spending – of the £205 billion or so spent on tax credits and social security benefits, the IFS calculate about £111 billion is spent on those over pension age and £94 billion on those of working age.
  • Source: welfare spending at IFS

Benefit spending in the UK

The only breakdown I could find of benefit spending was from this Guardian data doc. Using original data from the Department of Work and Pensions .


Welfare benefits (billion, bn)

  • Housing benefit    £16.94
  • Disability allowance    £12.57
  • pensions credit +MIG    £8.11
  • iIncome support    £6.92
  • Rent rebates    £5.45
  • Attendance allpwance    £5.30
  • Incapacity    £5.30
  • Jobseekers allowance    £4.90 (0.7% of total spending)
  • Council tax benefit    £4.80
  • employment + Support    £3.58
  • sick + maternity pay    £2.55
  • Social fund    £2.37
  • carers allowance    £1.73
  • financial assistance    £1.24
  • Total £159



Main groups of welfare payments

  • State pensions    £74.22
  • housing benefits    £27.20
  • Disability benefits    £24.80
  • low income    £17.40
  • Jobseekers allowance    £4.90
  • others    £9.60
  • total    £159


  • housing = housing benefit + rent rebate + Council tax benefits
  • disability = disability allowance, incapacity benefit, carers allowance
  • low income support – pensions credit, minimum income guarantee, social fund

UK Spending Breakdown

A motivation for this post was the governments own guide to how it spends it’s money, which apparently is getting sent to every household (at a cost of £5 million.

Firstly, the ‘Welfare’ budget is so diverse, it is not really a helpful breakdown.

Given the political issues around welfare spending and prospect of welfare cuts, it is easy to misinform the public about the nature of welfare and benefit spending. For example, ‘welfare spending’ includes public sector pensions, job seekers allowance, social security funds to help the disabled and elderly. These are all very different types of government spending. To lump it together is not particularly helpful. Others are less reserved in their judgement – A campaign to mislead at Mainly Macro

The main unemployment benefit (Job seekers allowance, just accounts for £4.9bn or 0.7% of total government spending. Yet, housing benefits account for over £23bn.

UK Spending breakdown

Even after spending all morning investigate government welfare spending, I’m still not happy about the quality of the statistics. The IFS were very helpful in deciphering part of welfare spending. But, I would like much clearer and easier stats on the breakdown of government welfare spending from the government departments. I will contact Dept of Work and Pensions and see if they can help.



2 thoughts on “UK Social security budget”

  1. I’m massively confused here because – which uses the HM Treasury PESA figures – has Welfare spending at roughly £60 billion between 2010 and 2013 and then £54 billion odd for 2014???

    What does that include? Why is it different from all the other figures I’m seeing.

    Also, nobody seems to use the same term for this – the BBC uses “welfare”, the Economist “social benefits” and you guys use “social security”. Which one is the correct one or are they all different?

  2. It is confusing. And the government recently changed their definition of Social security spending.

    It was really hard to decipher myself. There are 3 inter-related concepts

    social security payments
    Welfare payments
    Welfare benefits

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