The same number of people in Wales are carers as are unemployed, a respected Welsh think tank has said.
Bevan Foundation is calling for greater research and analysis on how the welfare system works in Wales, before any new powers are devolved to the Welsh Assembly.
The foundation warns of a ‘mismatch’ between the support available through the benefits system and people’s needs, Wales Online reports.
Dr Victoria Winckler, chief executive of Bevan Foundation, says focusing on getting more long-term unemployed people into work ignores the reality that “about the same number of people are carers as are unemployed”.
Dr Winckler told Wales Online: “Slowly but surely, aspects of the welfare system – such as housing benefit and the discretionary assistance fund – are being devolved to Wales.
“Unless the research is done now, we are likely to lose track of what works well for Wales under the current arrangements, and what we should be putting on our devolution wish list.”
The think tank also points out that more than half (57%) of welfare expenditure in Wales is spent on pensions and benefits for older people, amounting to around £6.1 billion a year.
Spending on working age benefits include £1.46bn on tax credits, £829 million on sickness benefits, £722 million on housing benefits and £647 million on benefits for disabled people.
Dr Winckler said: “The social security system makes an enormous contribution to the well-being of people in Wales, providing essential support for people who are unable to work either because of their age or a disability, as well as topping up the incomes of families who are on low wages.”
She added: “Our early analysis shows that there are some significant mis-matches between the current system and people’s needs.
“For example, the focus on long-term unemployment doesn’t reflect the reality that about the same number of people are carers as are unemployed.”
Dr Winkler also criticised how people on benefits are often vilified and stigmatised, “but the truth is nearly every single one of us will get help from the state at some point in our lives”.
“Our project will help to make sure that the benefit system provides support when it is most needed”, she said.
Her comments come ahead of a debate on the future of the benefits system in Wales, later today (Monday).
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has been invited to speak at the event at Cardiff Bay this afternoon.
She is expected to criticise both the Conservatives and Labour, accusing them of making it “very difficult for progressive voices to have a fair hearing”.
Leanne Wood will also say: “Westminster can no longer be trusted with providing the full social protection that our families need, and Wales should seek greater powers to create our own social safety net for our communities.”