Wigan sees 19 per cent rise in young benefit claimants
The number of young people in Wigan claiming benefits has rocketed by nearly a fifth in five years.
New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show there were 1,357 claimants aged 18 to 24 in November - 19 per cent more than in the same month in 2014.
That was also a rise of six per cent compared to 2018.
And 695 young people aged between 16 to 19 claimed Universal Credit in November: a 32 per cent increase on the year before, when 526 teens received it.
It means roughly one in every 20 teenagers between 16 and 19 in Wigan was on Universal Credit last year, according to the latest population estimates.
Of those who received the benefit, 79 per cent were unemployed. But for all age groups, the number of benefit claimants rose by just one per cent over those five years.
There were 7,461 claimants in November, a three per cent increase on the year before.
The rise comes despite the UK’s employment rate reaching a record high of 76.3 per cent during the same month.
Nicky Freaney, partnership manager for the DWP, said there could be lots of reasons for the increase in young people claiming benefits and work was being done to identify those not in employment, education or training.
She said: “For Wigan, we are in a better place than nationally at 13 per cent year on year, but we have got lots of opportunities within the borough to try and support those customers that are with us and how they move forward.”
She detailed a variety of schemes available to young people, including support when they claim universal credit, work placements within job centres and other Government departments, an adviser who visits schools and colleges, and a programme for those who are not claiming benefits but have not been in employment, education or training for four months.
Support is offered to help youngsters overcome barriers, work on their CVs, search for jobs and develop interview skills.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are also available, with a course currently being developed with Wigan Athletic Community Trust.
Mrs Freaney said: “In a five mile radius of King Street job centre, there are 67 apprenticeships for a whole host of different sectors. There is travel, hospital, business admin, dental nurse, to name but a few. Our work coaches encourage young people to apply for them.”
Mrs Freaney said: “We will work with every young person that comes in the door. It’s about finding out what’s right for them.”
The flagship welfare system will be fully implemented by the end of 2023, the Government said, after being plagued by delays and allegations that it is plunging vulnerable people further into debt.
It means six legacy benefits - including jobseekers’ allowance and working tax credit - will be replaced with a single monthly Universal Credit payment.
While the means-tested benefit is normally available to adults who are on a low income or out of work, young people aged 16 or 17 can claim Universal Credit for several reasons, including having no parental support, caring for a severely disabled person or being responsible for a child.
The Government has committed to ending a four-year benefit freeze in April this year, meaning millions of people will see their payments rise by the same rate as inflation.
Iain Porter, social security policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Our social security system should be an anchor, providing the stability and support that young people need.
“The decision to end the benefits freeze is welcome, but it isn’t enough to reverse the hardship already experienced by young people on low incomes. To avoid pushing people of all ages further into poverty, ministers must commit to ending the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment.”