Fall in number of benefit claimants in Wigan
Fewer people are now claiming unemployment benefits in Wigan than before the roll-out of Universal Credit, new figures reveal.
Across Great Britain, the number of claimants has fallen too, with anti-poverty charity Turn2us warning that the switchover masks a “failing” benefits system.
Department for Work and Pensions statistics show 7,711 people in Wigan claimed out-of-work benefits in August. This was up seven per cent from last year, but still nine per cent fewer than in 2014, the earliest available data after the introduction of Universal Credit.
Across the North West, there were 166,359 claimants in August – representing a 12 per cent fall over the five-year period.
David Samson, welfare benefit specialist at Turn2us, said: “If people aren’t claiming out-of-work benefits because they are receiving high pay in meaningful work, then that is fantastic.
“But if the claimant count is low because the DWP has created a hostile, complex or intimidating environment, then that is troubling.
“From what people with experience are telling us, the roll-out of Universal Credit is linked to rising rent arrears, increasing debt and soaring foodbank use. This is damning for the Government.
“There are a number of things the DWP can immediately do to rectify this situation, such as end the benefits freeze, scrap the five-week wait for Universal Credit and adequately fund our welfare system so people can thrive.”
The latest figures model employment trends since 2013. They cover people claiming the old-style Jobseeker’s Allowance, and those required to look for work under the Universal Credit system brought in gradually between 2013 and 2018.
Any trends seen in the data, the DWP says, reflect how the economy performs, rather than the switch from one benefits system to another.
Unemployment in Wigan also rose last year, from 3.6 per cent of the workforce to 3.8.
Nationally, 1.3 million people currently claim unemployment benefits – that’s 3.1 per cent of the population aged 16 to 64.