Employment hits regional high amid Universal Credit claims rise

Julia Nix of Department of Work and Pensions

Julia Nix (inset), DWP district manager for East Anglia, is confident more people will find employment amid a rise in Universal Credit claimants in parts of Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Archant/Rebecca Murphy

More people in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire are being urged to apply amid "hundreds of vacancies" despite an increase in the number of Universal Credit claimants. 

As of September 9, 9,408 people in Fenland claimed for Universal Credit compared to 9,283 in August, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

In East Cambridgeshire, 4,579 submitted a claim, a rise from the previous month. 

However, DWP figures released this month showed the East of England had a 79.1 per cent employment rate, the highest of any other UK region.

Julia Nix, DWP district manager for East Anglia, said: “We don’t exactly know why the number of claimants has increased.

“I think it’s probably down to seasonal reasons, such as children going back to school; there is some seasonal on and off-flow.” 

Last week, the government cut the weekly £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments as the furlough scheme also ended, prompting Cambridgeshire County Council to fear a “spike in demand” of families needing vital support. 

Julia Nix of Department for Work and Pensions

Julia Nix, DWP district manager for East Anglia, is confident more people will find employment amid a rise in Universal Credit claimants in parts of Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Rebecca Murphy

The number of people unemployed in the east has also fallen to 118,000, a rate of 3.6pc and lower than the national average. 

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“As long as we have employment opportunities, I think families can move out of poverty,” Ms Nix said. 

“We have hundreds of vacancies that we can use to help children out of poverty by finding them diverse employment, including for single parents and over 50s.” 

Employment minister Mims Davies MP said the DWP has received a £500m boost to their Plan for Jobs programme to help people secure jobs before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This includes the Kickstart scheme, which is offering vacancies in the likes of Wisbech and Ely. 

Ms Nix said this scheme has been extended till March next year, and with that, she believes this could help take families out of poverty. 

“Industries like food manufacturing, retail are desperate for people and if they’ve just come into the job, we can help them,” she added. 

“I don’t think benefits take people out of poverty, but employment does. 

“We have still got employment and I would like to see a continued drive in the coming months.”   

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