The number of Universal Credit claims made by the over-50s more than doubled between March and May, a new study suggests.
There were 660,000 claims last month, compared with 304,000 in March, according to an analysis of official data by Rest Less, a jobs, money and lifestyle site for the over-50s.
The increase highlights the number of over-50s who have less than £16,000 in savings and so meet the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit.
Before the coronavirus crisis, research from Rest Less indicated that over-50s were already more likely to be in long-term unemployment than younger people.
The sharp increase in older Universal Credit claimants shows how many over-50s are now struggling financially, said the report.
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 in the wake of the current unemployment crisis.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The system has stood firm in the face of the unprecedented demand and our dedicated staff have gone above and beyond to help process more than 2.4 million new Universal Credit claims since mid-March.
“These are challenging times, but Universal Credit is providing a vital safety net to those affected by the pandemic and we’ve taken action by injecting over £6.5 billion to support people using the welfare system, along with the other job and business support programmes announced by the Chancellor.”