Election 2015 Wales

How £8.9bn benefits budget is spent in Wales

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Image caption Benefits spending is rising, as the population is ageing

Benefits is a word you will have heard during this election campaign, but exactly how much does it cost a year in Wales?

In total, £8.9bn was spent from the benefits budget in 2013/14.

One figure that sticks out and overshadows all other payments is the amount spent on state pensions.

The £4.322m - or £4.3bn - is nearly half the total spending in 2013/14 and is more than double the spending in 2000.

Image caption This shows the rise in benefits spending in Wales

Much of this increase is because the population of Wales has grown and as we keep being reminded, it is ageing. We have a larger proportion of retired people living in Wales and they are living longer.

One further illustration of this is the amount of money spent on free TV licences for people over 75 years of age - £32m last year.

That is almost double the £17m spent on maternity allowance.

Dr David Blackaby, an economist at Swansea University says: "Back in 2001 about 17% of the population were over 65 and and that's gone up to about 19.5%.

"Many people retire to this part of the world because housing costs are lower."

He said means testing for the likes of free TV licences could be considered but the process can be more expensive - and it might also not be politically astute.

Image caption How the pattern of spending compares from Wales - in blue - to the rest of Great Britain

After state pensions the next largest areas of spending are Disability Living Allowance (DLA, 12%) and housing benefit (11%).

Just over £1bn in 2013/14 was spent on DLA - which helps people with disabilities get support - up from £451m in 1998/99.

At the same time spending on incapacity benefit has fallen dramatically, as it is being replaced by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

In 1998/99 in Wales, £695m was spent on incapacity benefit whereas by 2013/14 it had fallen to £109m.

The changes have already made a difference.

Dr Blackaby said: "The government has introduced new benefits, it's going to make it tougher to get those, introducing medical tests and re-testing and they will be time-limited. So changing the rules will change the amount we spend on different benefits."

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Spending on housing benefit has also risen in Wales from £500m in 1998/99 to more than £1bn last year.

Unemployment in Wales has fallen since 2010 from 9% of people over 16 to 6.2% now.

Not everyone who is unemployed is entitled to Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) but in 1998/99 £185m was spent on it in Wales, while in 2013/14 JSA spending was £236m.

Spending on income support however is down by a third. In 1998/99 £673m was spent on it whereas in 2013/14 it was down to £217m.

Whoever wins the election will face difficult decisions about what areas of the welfare budget they want to prioritise.

And they all know the biggest slice of the cake goes on pensions - which are projected to carry on rising through the lifetime of the next parliament.

Dr Blackaby said: "Benefits are there to stop people moving into poverty. Poverty, especially when children are involved, can be very damaging to future careers.

"So it's in everyone's interest to have society where people are protected at the bottom end. The argument is about how much protection there should be and whether it takes away the incentive for people to get jobs."

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