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Number of children claiming disability benefits ‘doubles in a decade’

School children
School children

The number of children receiving disability benefits has doubled in the past decade amid a rise in learning difficulties, ADHD and autism, the Resolution Foundation has found.

In total, there are now 328,000 more children receiving financial support for disability than there were in 2013, the think tank said, taking this year’s tally to 658,000.

The surge comes alongside a broader rise in people of working age also receiving payments for incapacity or disability, which required an extra £15bn of state spending in the nine years to 2022-23.

In its latest report, the Resolution Foundation said working-age disability benefits are on track to rise 215pc from 2013-14 to 2028-29 – with the cost to the taxpayer expected to hit £63bn in the next five years.

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Many people who have received disability benefits as children continue to do so as adults, the report noted.

Around 70pc of the 318,000 young adults aged 16 to 24 who received personal independence payments (PIP) previously received disability payments as children. 

The report said: “If we want to properly understand the rising number of young people claiming disability benefits, then we must also look at trends in child disability benefits.”

Worklessness surges after pandemic

It comes amid growing political alarm over a surge in worklessness since Covid, triggered in part by a record number of people forced to quit work because of long-term sickness.

The share of people aged 16 to 24 reporting that they have a disability has risen from 8pc to 17pc in the 10 years to 2022-23, the Resolution Foundation found.

This is the largest relative rise of any age group.

Louise Murphy, one of the report’s authors, said it was “striking” how many of the claims for children related to “learning disabilities, autism and ADHD”.

Ms Murphy said: “We know that those conditions have been rising across society overall. Maybe it is not so surprising that we are seeing this reflected in the benefits system when that has been a big societal shift over the past decade or so.”

People can receive personal independence payments whether in work or not, as they are paid out to help cover the costs of having a disability.

Ms Murphy said: “Although in essence, the philosophy of PIP is that it is not an out-of-work benefit, the reality is the majority of claimants are not working. That is for all working-age adults, not just young people.”

The research found that there are 2.9 million more adults in Britain of working age with disabilities today than a decade ago. This partly reflects increases in the state pension age, but also worse health and possibly deteriorating health services, the research said.