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More people in Harrogate claiming Universal Credit

More people in Harrogate claiming Universal Credit

Published by May Norman at 6:45am 3rd May 2020.

Patrick Jack, Data Reporter

Rise in Universal Credit claimants in Harrogate, figures show

  • Over 5,500 people in Harrogate are now claiming Universal Credit (UC).
  • The number of people aged 60 to 65 on UC increased by 7 per cent.
  • Benefits experts are now urging the Government to remove the five-week wait for claimants’ first monthly Universal Credit payment.

Hundreds more people in Harrogate are claiming Universal Credit, figures show, as the effects of the coronavirus shutdown begin to be seen on the area's economy.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show 5,660 people in Harrogate were on Universal Credit as of March 12 – a 2 per cent increase on the month before.

Department for Work and Pensions

Local figures on claimants are only available prior the point Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed strict social distancing rules by placing the country into lockdown.

Benefits experts Turn2us said the nation's welfare state is "creaking round the seams" as it urged the Government to remove the five-week wait for claimants’ first monthly Universal Credit payment.

Anna Stevenson, welfare benefit expert at Turn2us, said:

"Millions of people, many completely new to the benefits system, are making claims for Universal Credit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"While our welfare state is providing some protection, it is creaking round the seams. We urge the Government to eliminate the five-week wait for Universal Credit so people can put food on the table today and avoid the debt trap."

However, Welfare Minister Will Quince told MPs last week that ending the wait "isn't something we considered" because it was not operationally deliverable, even if they could secure the £2.2 billion a year needed.

The Government's decision to raise the allowance by £20 a week at the beginning of April was a "step in the right direction" for charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, but it said it will still not be enough for the hardest-hit families.

Iain Porter, the organisation's social security policy and partnerships manager, said:

"In particular, families with children have been offered no extra support, despite facing significant additional costs due to school closures and children being at home.

"That’s why we’re calling for an urgent temporary increase of at least £20 to the child element of Universal Credit and child tax credits to offer a lifeline to families most at risk of hardship.”

National figures show the biggest increase in claims between February and March was among those aged 60 or over.

In Harrogate, the number of people aged 60 to 65 on UC increased by 7%, while the number of 66-plus claimants rose from 0 to 5.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said:

"Since the coronavirus outbreak many older workers have lost their jobs and have turned to Universal Credit. Given older jobseekers typically take longer to get back in to work than do younger workers, we need to see an immediate investment in back-to-work support targeted at the over 60s."

A DWP spokesman said:

“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 on the welfare system, along with the other job and business support programmes announced by the Chancellor.”