The number of Universal Credit claims made by the over 50s more than doubled in May compared with March this year, rising from 304,000 to nearly 660,000 in just two months, with further analysis showing that the age bracket do not have enough money to pay for basic necessities, a study of labour market statistics has shown.

The number of Universal Credit claims in May represent approximately six per cent of over 50s who are considered economically active (either in work or actively looking for work). The rise of those claiming Universal Credit in this demographic is of particular concern as it highlights the number of over 50s who have less than £16K in savings and therefore meet the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit.

Prior to the pandemic, previous research from Rest Less highlighted that those over 50 were already more likely to be in long term unemployment, than their younger counterparts, while analysis of Insolvency Data found an alarming increase in female insolvencies over the age of 65s. The sharp increase in older Universal Credit claimants shows how many over 50s are now struggling financially..

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said “Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg as many of those unemployed in their 50s will not be eligible to claim Universal Credit. The surge in older claimants highlights the extremely precarious financial situation that many of this demographic find themselves in today. With eligibility criteria requiring less than £16,000 of savings to qualify, this highlights how little of a financial buffer people have been able to save, despite many having worked hard for more than three decades already.”

‘Prior to the pandemic, we already knew that older workers were more likely to be in long term unemployment, were less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts and were extremely likely to face age discrimination in the recruitment process.

‘In a year when the state pension age increases to 66, and with more over 50s claiming Universal Credit than those under 25, this is a wake up call for Government policy which in the wake of the current unemployment crisis, MUST lay out more support for getting the over 50s back into work – to help them retrain, reskill and be welcomed back into the workplace post-pandemic. Without significant training and workplace support, the fear is of a lost generation of highly talented, older workers forced permanently into a miserable and unaffordable early retirement.”

“With birth rates having declined for decades, the over 50s have been the main driving force behind the success story of UK employment growth in the years leading up to the pandemic. Crucially, they will be just as essential to any recovery of the economy on the other side.”

The Office for National Statistics figures show claims for universal credit increased by 117% in two months, rising from 304,000 to nearly 660,000. The claims represent about 6% of those aged over 50 who are considered economically active, either in work or actively looking for work.

Kim Chaplain, the Associate Director at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “These figures are really worrying. Without action, we risk seeing many in their 50s and 60s fall out of the workforce years before the state pension age.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Post-pandemic, the government needs to make sure that job centres and other back-to-work support offers have the skills and expertise needed to address the specific barriers faced by older people.”

“Otherwise those in their late 50s and 60s may end up having to claim universal credit or draw down savings, which they had worked hard to put by, with the aim of providing them with a decent retirement.”