Lockdown causes sharp rise in unemployment benefit claims in Mansfield and Ashfield

Mansfield and Ashfield have seen some of the sharpest spikes in people claiming unemployment benefits in Nottinghamshire, as the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy begin to bite.

Friday, 29th May 2020, 10:26 am

The Labour Party says more of us will soon face what it describes as ‘one of the weakest out-of-work safety nets in the developed world’, and has joined charities in urging reform to the system.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show 8,150 people across Mansfield and Ashfield were claiming out-of-work benefits as of April 9, compared to just 4,925 a month earlier.

It means the share of the population signing on rose from 3.5 per cent to 5.6 per cent in Mansfield and 3.3 per cent to 5.5 per cent in Ashfield – both among the biggest jumps in the East Midlands, where the average claimant rate rose from 2.7 per cent to 4.6 per cent.

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Lockdown has seen a sharp rise in unemployment benefit claims

The statistics capture the early weeks of restrictions after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown on March 23, meaning the numbers are likely to have risen again since.

The ONS figures counted those aged 16 to 64 who were on Jobseekers Allowance and some universal credit claimants, with numbers rounded to the nearest five.

Across the UK, the claimant count rocketed to 2.1 million on April 9 – a 66 per cent rise from March, although the ONS put the increase at 69 per cent if the figures were adjusted to take seasonal variations into account.

Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said the rise shows the ‘severity of the crisis we are facing’.

He added: “Unfortunately these claimants will now discover the UK has one of the weakest out-of-work safety nets in the developed world.

“We support the changes the Government has made so far during the outbreak, but they do not match the scale of the crisis.”

The party has called on the Government to make five immediate changes to the benefits system, which include ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments and scrapping a £16,000 limit on the amount of savings claimants can have.

Sara Willcocks, from the anti-poverty charity Turn2us, said: "No matter where you live in the UK, you should be able to rely on our social security system, just as we do our NHS.

"So the Government must take this time to fix the problems with benefits, like the five-week wait for universal credit, and make them suitable for the 21st century."

A department for work and pensions 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 using the welfare system.”