Coffey’s department increases staff to boost benefit payments

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said more work was being done to boost benefits at her Department

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said more work was being done to boost benefits at her Department of Work and Pensions. Picture: JEFF SPICER/PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Suffolk Coastal MP and Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Therese Coffey was spearheading government attempts to deal with the coronavirus crisis on Tuesda,y as the number of people claiming benefits increased rapidly.

Dr Coffey said civil servants had been moved to new jobs to help cope with the number of applications for support from workers who had lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown – and who were now having to apply for Universal Credit or other benefits.

She was speaking as the independent Office of Budget Responsibility warned that economic activity could shrink by 35% this quarter – although it did expect things to bounce back later in the year.

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During an interview with LBC, Dr Coffey said her department had “re-prioritised tens of thousands of our civil servants to get claims processed.”

She said: “So about 10,000 have been redistributed, we’re bringing in people from other parts of the government as well to make sure that when people need the help most they are confident they can get it – and that has included over 360,000 advanced payments as well.”

And in another interview, she said of Universal Credit: “We’re up to about 1.4 million people who have claimed Universal Credit and also other people who have claimed other things like Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. So we are capable of processing and managing those claims.”

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Experts at the OBR added that unemployment is expected to hit 3.4million, around one in 10 of the working population without a job, if the lockdown lasts three months - followed by a partial lifting for three months.

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The OBR added that, on its new prediction, GDP will then jump 25% in the third quarter and a further 20% in the final three months of 2020.

Public sector net borrowing is also expected to increase by £218billion this year, compared with March forecasts - hitting £273billion, or 14% of GDP.

The OBR added: “That would be the largest single-year deficit since the Second World War. The sharp rise in borrowing this year largely reflects the impact of economic disruption on receipts (with smaller effects from policy measures like the business rates holidays) and policy measures that add to public spending.”

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