A seemingly older claim has been making the rounds again on social media sites like Facebook. The post seems to make two claims; 1) Illegal immigrants are given just under £30,000 a year in benefits, and 2) Pensioners in Britain are paid a total of £6,000 a year in benefits.
The first thing to point out with the first claim is that by the very nature of an immigrant being illegal, they would not be able to claim state benefits. An illegal immigrant is an immigrant that is not legally able to remain in the country, and if their status was discovered by the relevant authorities, those immigrants are likely to be removed from the country. Therefore they would not be able to claim benefits such as income support or otherwise rely on the UK's welfare system.
The more relevant group of people are refugees. Refugees are immigrants who have successfully claimed asylum in the UK, and are technically entitled to the same benefits as a UK national. It is important to note that in order to be eligible for asylum, an applicant must be unable to live in their own country because they fear persecution as a result of their race, religion or political opinions. However, in most cases, this is dependant on the refugee's tax contributions. For example, in order to claim Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA), you need to have made enough National Insurance contributions in the two years beforehand. Therefore, if you've never worked in the UK, you can't get contributions based JSA. Thus in reality, refugees will still be less entitled to welfare than British nationals.
Asylum seekers - those who have not yet been successful in their application - are even less entitled to benefits in the UK. Currently, they are only entitled to £37.75 per week per person. That is just £1,963 a year. However, for those with nowhere to sleep, housing can be provided to the asylum seeker temporarily. Asylum seekers do not get a choice where they live, and London and the South of England are not likely destinations. However, even with the housing provision for those who need it the most, this group of people does not come close to the £29,900 that is claimed.
Therefore it is clear the first claim is false and should not be taken for a fact.
In relation to the second claim that pensioners who have worked for the last 45 years are only entitled to £6,000 in benefits, this is also false. A man who has been working since his 18th birthday and born in 1955 will have a state retirement age of 66 years old, and therefore will receive a state pension from his 66th birthday. Currently, he will be entitled to a state pension of £164.35 per week. This equates to £8,546.20 per year.
This is only the amount of state pension he will receive. The man will still be entitled to several other benefits, including pension credit, housing benefit and disability living allowances (now personal independence payments). Thus rather than the maximum total benefit being £6,000 as is claimed by the post, a pensioner living in the UK has access to a generous welfare system, alongside a state guaranteed pension.
Clearly the second claim in the post is also false and should not be regarded as true.
It is important to note the significance of the motives behind posts such as these. Whilst some may be pursuing 'likes' and attention, others are attempting to incite hate towards those who may be perceived as 'illegal immigrants'. The danger of spreading this type of misinformation therefore should not be understated.
For information in relation to this post, please see the government note on the matter, "Viral emails protesting about financial assistance for "illegal immigrants/refugees living in Britain".
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Tom is the executive editor of TrueSay. He is due to train as a solicitor from 2020. For now, he wants to help stop the spread of misinformation.