More foreigners claiming benefits
There has been a sharp rise in the number of foreign nationals claiming benefits in the UK, figures show.
More than 400,000 non-UK nationals received benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance, a rise by 40% over the last four years.
The 407,000 on benefits is a rise of more than 118,000 since 2008, data from the Department for Work and Pensions showed after it was released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The figures revealed a steep increase in the number of claims by people from eastern European countries, the Daily Telegraph said.
Almost 50,000 claimed work benefits last year, four times the number of 12,600 in 2008, a rise caused by Poland and other eastern European countries being allowed full access to the UK benefits system.
There are fears the increase in claimants could continue next year with an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian workers following further relaxation of EU border controls.
The figures showed that European benefit claimants made up the largest group of foreign nationals, at almost 139,000. There were also 102,000 people from Africa claiming benefits last year and 132,000 from Asia and the Middle East, the Telegraph said. This meant that one in 14 claiming "in-work" benefits was a foreigner.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told the newspaper: "It's concerning that the bill for these benefits has ballooned so much in the last few years. It's particularly troubling at a time when politicians have talked of making work pay and cutting the bloated welfare budget. Benefits must be simplified to protect taxpayers and ensure help reaches those who really need it."
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch UK, said: "It is very striking that claimants from Poland and the other new eastern European member states have increased by nearly three quarters in just one year since they gained the same access to the UK benefit system as British citizens. Furthermore, these latest figures do not include working tax credit or housing benefit for which most east Europeans, being low paid, would qualify."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said:? "It is important that we protect the integrity of the British benefits system and make sure it is not abused, which is why we are tightening our rules to ensure genuine workers and jobseekers get support, but not people who come to this country to take advantage. We are also currently working with our counterparts across Europe to address the concerns we have about the abuse of free movement.
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