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Unemployment in Suffolk rockets by 40% due to virus

PUBLISHED: 10:24 20 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:24 20 May 2020

Coronavirus caused the number of Universal Credit claims in Suffolk to rise by nearly 40% between March 12 and April 9. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Coronavirus caused the number of Universal Credit claims in Suffolk to rise by nearly 40% between March 12 and April 9. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The number of universal credit claimants in Suffolk surged by nearly 40% between March and April because of Covid-19, data from the Department of Work and Pensions reveals.

Between March 12 and April 9 the number of people claiming the benefit in the county jumped from 31,573 to 43,980 – a change of 39.3% – and has continued to rise since.

According to Stephen Lankester, district operations leader at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), in East Anglia there were almost as many claims for Universal Credit in the past 10 weeks as there had been since the system started.

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He said: “These were the biggest weeks. At the start of Covid these were the people who were laid-off and made a claim for Universal Credit.

“These [numbers refer to] the busiest weeks. It has slowed down since.

“The bigger increases happened in affluent areas. Areas where there is not usually high unemployment but people have been affected by Covid – their companies have closed down or they’ve been laid-off.”

In Suffolk the local authority area with the greatest change is Babergh, where the number of claimants grew from 2,986 to 4,535 – a change of 51.9%.

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The local authority area with the most claimants is East Suffolk which now has 15,941 up 35.6% from 11,756 in March.

Mr Lankester said that the DWP has had to adapt how it works during coronavirus, but is now paying out at a faster rate than it ever has done before.

He said: “We’ve changed the way we’re doing things. Obviously, we’re not seeing so many people face-to-face so we’re doing more things digitally or over the phone.

“It has impacted us nationally and locally by quite a lot.”

Find all of our coronavirus coverage here.

Across England the number of Universal Credit claimants rose by over one million, from 2,591,995 to 3,614,264 – 39.4%.

Mim Davies, government minister for employment, said: “Clearly these figures are behind on our current struggle but the impact of this global health emergency is now starting to show – and we’re doing everything we can to protect jobs and livelihoods. What these statistics do highlight is that heading into the pandemic, we had built strong foundations in our economy, which will be crucial as we gradually move forward as the lockdown eases and look to bounce back.”

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