More than 28,000 people in Northamptonshire started on Universal Credit when pandemic hit

Tens of thousands of people started on Universal Credit in Northamptonshire this time last year - and thousands are still relying on it

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 11:00 am
Tens of thousands of people signed up to Universal Credit at the beginning of the first lockdown. Image by BBC.

Tens of thousands of Northamptonshire residents claimed help through benefits for the first time when the pandemic hit the UK almost a year ago.

An investigation has revealed that over April and May last year, 28,000 people in Northamptonshire claimed Universal Credit for the first time.

But further, out of all of those first-time claimers, 60 per cent were still claiming six months later.

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It points to how the pandemic left thousands of people unable to work and struggling to get by, while one economic institute said coronavirus had exposed "underlying inequalities in the labour market".

The analysis of Department for Work and Pensions data by the BBC's Shared Data Unit showed they were just some of the 2.4million new claims across the UK in that time.

It comes as the Government is set to rescind the £20 weekly uplift it rolled out last year during CHancellor Rishi Sunak's early Covid economic response.

The government says the boost was only designed as a temporary response to help those unable to work or struggling due to the lockdown.

It comes after poverty research group the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a yearly report into the state of UK's most disadvantaged communities.

Deputy director Peter Matejic said: "[These figures] are a sign of two factors. One is that the pandemic has had a massive effect on the labour market - so lots of people have been furloughed, lots of people have reduced their hours and lots of people have lost their jobs and had to take up more lower paid jobs.

"Quite a lot of these people on Universal Credit at the moment are in one of these precarious situations where they might be on furlough or the business they work for is working out how to survive.

"The fact the number of claimants has gone up - and the proportion in work has gone up - is worrying because that means earnings have fallen. But we think it could get worse if lots of those people claiming Universal Credit in work after the end of the furlough scheme move over into the category of out-of-work claimants."