Number of young people claiming Universal Credit in north-east doubles

The number of people claiming Universal Credit in the north-east has fallen – but the number of young people on the scheme is double what it was last year.

Latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show around 14,000 in the north-east claimed in June – approximately 48% of the number for May.

But the statistics also show almost 2,500 young people signed up last month, a rise of more than 100% on the same time last year.

In Aberdeen last month, 8,025 people signed up to claim Universal Credit, a fall of 45% compared to figures recorded for May.

The picture is similar in Aberdeenshire, with 6,146 claimants – a drop of 51%.

Overall, the 14,171 claimants is a drop of around 48% from the total of 27,000 for the previous month.

However, the number of people between the ages of 18 and 24 who claimed last month was 120% higher than the same time last year, at 1,384.

And in Aberdeenshire, the total was 107% more, at 1,083.

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However, a spokeswoman for the DWP said job vacancies were beginning to be advertised again as the north-east takes further steps out of the Covid-19 lockdown.

She added dedicated youth teams and hubs were being set up to combat the rising number of young people signing up to Universal Credit.

She said: “We are working with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council to support their Economic Recovery plan. We are working with local partner organisations to develop support packages taking into account social distancing requirements. A lot of our partners have moved to online services.

“As part of the PACE (partnership action for continuing employment) partnership we are developing new ways of offering support to those under threat of redundancy. We are looking at digital channels.

“We are starting to see small numbers of vacancies in all sectors including hospitality such as Dyce Farm and McDonalds.

“We are setting up dedicated youth teams and youth hubs. There is a big focus on youth unemployment. We are gathering in depth customer insight to offer targeted support and employment approaches.

“Now as sectors reopen, the challenge is to get Britain back working again, which is why we are recruiting additional work coaches.

“Despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, there are still jobs out there. The new site will point you to who’s hiring now. You can also find hints and tips on applying for jobs if you haven’t done so for a while, and you can get some support to think about moving sectors.”

Councillor Stephen Flynn

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said: “These figures are obviously deeply worrying and it’s clear that Aberdeen faces a unique challenge presented by both coronavirus and the downturn in oil and gas.

“There are understandably huge concerns that as the furlough scheme is brought to a close in the coming months that the level of unemployment will only increase and I will continue to challenge the UK Government to ensure that these fears do not become a reality.”

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Tom Mason said: “These figures are extremely concerning and highlight our youngsters in Aberdeen have been among the hardest hit by recent events to do with Covid-19 as well as the economy over the last year.

“The kickstart scheme from the Chancellor is another major show of support from the UK Government to create jobs across the north-east.

“It’s vital our youngsters have access to opportunities to protect them against the threat of unemployment.

“From industries such as hospitality to oil and gas, jobs must be at the forefront of the recovery process and it’s key these sectors are allowed to return to as close to normality as soon as possible.”

And Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles added: “Many of our youngsters have been missed out from government support packages especially those ‘freelancers’ and those on zero hour contracts who have had no option but to claim unemployment benefit.

“It is shocking that so many people have had no help other than ‘the dole’. That’s why Liberal Democrat’s are advocating for a universal basic income for all.”

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