Labour say that almost 80,000 veterans could be dependent on Universal Credit as cost-of-living grants jump a quarter

The Labour Party have published a new analysis that it says shows that almost 80,000 veterans could be claiming Universal Credit (UC), up more than a quarter since April 2022.

Shadow Veterans Minister Rachel Hopkins says findings shows the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on service communities and proves “…once again that the government is failing our veterans.”

The analysis comes after Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, Guy Opperman MP, confirmed that 43,500 of all UC claimants indicated they had previously served in the Armed Forces, and that 3,400 were currently serving.

But the Minister stated these figures come from just over half (56 per cent) of the UC caseload. This means up to 6,000 serving members of the Armed Forces could be claiming UC, along with almost 80,000 veterans.

The astonishing claims from Labour come as separate figures suggest veterans are increasingly relying on charitable support. The Royal British Legion (RBL) has issued 20 per cent more grants in the last 12 months than the previous year to help with food and basic living costs and warned that many members of the Armed Forces community are unable to afford their fuel bills this winter.

Likewise, Help for Heroes has reported a 28 per cent increase in referrals for grant funding support compared to last year. The charity’s average grant value in the first half of this year was £150, for food only, but the average since has been £406, which has included energy support.

Ministers have only collected the armed forces status of new UC claims since April 2021 and the status of existing UC claimants declaring their work and earnings since June 2021.

Shadow Veterans Minister, Rachel Hopkins MP said: “These shocking figures prove once again that the government is failing our service community.

“Those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe should not have to rely on benefits or charitable support to get by. Ministers’ broken promises on employment support undermines our country’s moral responsibility to support its service personnel.

“Our veterans have served our country proudly, now the government must get off the sidelines to deliver the support it deserves this winter. Our veterans have more than earned it.” asked the Government for a comment, and a spokesperson told us: “We are committed to ensuring those who serve and have served this country are cared for.

“For serving personnel we have introduced support that includes the biggest pay increase in 20 years, freezing daily food costs, providing generous accommodation subsidies and saving families up to £3,400 per child per year by extending wraparound childcare.

“We have also ensured support is provided to individuals leaving the armed forces, such as the government providing tax relief to employers who hire veterans, and making it easier to access civil service roles.”

The spokesperson added that Members of the Armed Forces who are eligible are entitled to apply for Universal Credit in the same way as all UK citizens and highlighted that Government is taking action to support veterans employment. Measures taken by the Government include:

  • In January, the Government launched the Veterans Strategy Action Plan of more than 60+ commitments backed by an extra £70 million. Great progress is being made with over a third of commitments already completed.
  • More than 800 veterans have been offered employment through the UK Government’s Great Place to Work scheme.
  • The Veteran Employers Group which launched in October 2022 will help identify best practice in veteran employability and identify potential barriers to employment that the government can address.
  • Every Jobcentre Plus district has at least one Armed Forces champion with more resource targeted where there are particular high levels of demand such as garrison towns.