Coronavirus: Latest figures show reduced number of new Universal Credit claims in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:31 17 July 2020

Signage for the Department for Work and Pensions; Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

Signage for the Department for Work and Pensions; Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The number of new claims for universal credit fell between between May and June as the UK continues to recover from coronavirus.

Between May 14 and June 11, there were 1,558 new claims made in Tower Hamlets, compared to 8,084 for the previous month (between April 9 and May 14).

Though these extra claims mean there are currently 37,379 people on universal credit in the borough, the lower jump between May and June is “really encouraging”, says department of work and pensions (DWP) customer service leader Kay Pegler.

Romford-based Kay attributes the change to a recovering labour market: “The economy is starting to open up again, so even though there are still significant numbers on universal credit, more people are getting into, and going back to, work.”

Although mindful that there could be a post-October spike after the furlough scheme ends, Kay hopes that the initiative to reward employers who retain furloughed workers reduces the risk.

The leader is also pleased by the focus on helping young people, and believes the Kickstart scheme, alongside additional bonuses for hiring apprentices, should help the demographic most vulnerable to unemployment.

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Tower Hamlets approached lockdown with more than 20,000 claimants; the 20,244 recorded on March 12 was the highest amongst neighbouring areas.

By contrast, Barking and Dagenham had 14,544 at the same point; Newham had 19,806. Havering recorded less than half of the Tower Hamlets total (9,649).

By June 11, the borough’s 37,379 claimants were second only to Newham’s 45,100.

This month’s rise — 1,558 new claimants — is notable when compared to the two previous monthly increases, each more than 7,000.

Kay says the focus is now on getting claimants back into work, with the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) designed to help with this.

Given a fresh injection of £150m, the fund pays for things such as travel or interview clothes, allowing the individual to focus only on getting the job: “We want to give them the tools to thrive.”

The DWP is also hiring more work coaches to get people into work; 192 are being recruited across east London, with the department aiming to have 27,000 nationwide by March 2021.

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