Across the six Liverpool city region local authority areas there was a 37.4% rise in people claiming Universal Credit to 137,234 between March 12 and April 9. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool city region has seen an “unprecedented” rise in benefit claimants during the coronavirus crisis, new data from the Department for Work and Pensions, shows.
Across the six city region local authority areas – Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton – there was a 37.4% rise in people claiming Universal Credit (UC) between March 12 and April 9, climbing from 99,887 to 137,234.
Liverpool saw the biggest percentage rise in UC claimants, up 40.8% to 44,938; followed by Sefton, up 39% to 22,126; St Helens, up 38.9% to 15,152; Knowsley, up 37.1% to 15,144; Wirral, up 34.6% to 25,809; and Halton, which saw the smallest rise – up 28.8% to 14,065.
The picture in the city region reflects the regional and national picture. Across the UK 1.9m new claims for UC have been processed since March 16 as the COVID-19 epidemic, and subsequent lockdown, took a huge toll on the economy.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a range of Government-backed loans and grants to help companies and the self-employed but the measures have been unable to prevent the collapse of businesses and the loss of jobs, particularly in the leisure, hospitality and retails sectors.
Gemma Batchelor, customer service leader for Liverpool City Cluster and spokesperson Merseyside Jobcentre Plus District, told LBN that despite the huge rise in UC claim, Jobcentre were still working to help people find jobs.
She said: “I am incredibly proud of the whole team in Merseyside and how they have gone above and beyond to help unprecedented numbers of new claimants access benefits over the last two months.
“We have had many people get in touch to say thank you for setting up their claim so quickly and offering a lifeline during such worrying times. We have also supported employers who need to fill around 1,700 vacancies in key worker sectors and our large recruitment team have been working hard to match people to these jobs.
“The whole team have been so flexible, adapting to new ways of virtual working to get support to those who need it.”
The Jobcentre team has been operating a recruitment line to support key worker employers in health and social care, retail, call centre and warehouse/logistics. Any job search activity is currently voluntary for claimants but many have shown an interest in key worker vacancies.
Ms Batchelor added: “We have managed several campaigns with call centres in Knowsley and Birkenhead for various contracts, including DWP, COVID-19 helpline, Argos, Department of Education and Moonpig.
“To date we have been notified of 1,680 vacancies and referred 1,200 Jobcentre Plus customers to the opportunities. Feedback from employers has been very positive, hence why they have continued to ask for our support.”
The team has also supported recruitment for 500 web-based customer service roles for the new UK test track and trace initiative working from home as contact tracers in Merseyside. This opportunity will help support all customer groups including those unable to work due to health conditions.
“Since Friday we have been supporting a Wirral-based company (Survitec), looking for 120 production operators, following their successful bid to produce surgical gowns for NHS. is Merseyside piloting the first virtual sector based work academy for the health and social care sector.
“This includes online training followed by a guaranteed interview with an employer. If this is successful, the model can be promoted to care providers. This approach can also be replicated for other sectors.”
Local vacancies are posted via Twitter on @JCPinMerseyside and other useful links include a dedicated website for job-seekers.