Universal Credit figures continue to rise in Cambs amid pandemic
- Credit: PA
The number of people in the East of England claiming Universal Credit, including Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, has seen a consistent rise since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal there were 9,221 claimants in Fenland as of December 10, 2020 compared to 8,956 the previous month.
In East Cambs, 4,689 people had submitted a claim, rising by 112 on last November.
In the East of England, however, there was an increase of 10,898 claimants, or ‘case loads’ compared to November 12, despite unemployment figures in the region being below the national average.
Shaun Sadler, DWP district operational leader for East Anglia, said: “We would normally see a reduction in numbers of unemployment because of the seasonality around retail.
“We have seen people’s employment coming to an end earlier. Earnings would be designed to people’s circumstances, such as the number of people on an assessment and other benefits they have got.”
Mr Sadler said although there is no data on which specific age groups have submitted the most claims for universal credit, he believes the 18-24 and 50+ case loads may be the most popular.
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He also said that 200 new staff are working with the DWP to support with the increased demand.
“We are seeing a different case load of people not previously going to the DWP or being unemployed. Some who have worked for 30 plus years have not had to apply for a job or go for a job interview,” Mr Sadler said.
“What I’ve seen in Cambs is the sheer volume of people that have not touched the welfare state. Pre-Covid, we had some of the highest employment figures in the country.”
Staff members are also working six days a week compared to five to help claimants with the Kickstart programme for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit at high-risk long-term unemployment.
However, Mr Sadler hopes the situation will improve in months to come.
“The DWP has moved quickly to adapt with numbers of hours changed, but it would be very silly to say it has not been difficult for our staff,” he added.
“We have relied on new staff coming in and are now open to the public on Saturdays, but we expect things to get better.”