People needing financial support whilst looking for work more than tripled in run up to Christmas

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In the build up to last Christmas, there were more than triple the number of City residents claiming welfare whilst looking for work, compared to the year before, new figures show.

With COVID-19 hitting jobs and livelihoods, local London Assembly Member Unmesh Desai AM, has called on Ministers to urgently “patch up the holes” in the welfare system and make urgent improvements to their job creation schemes.

Data published this week by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), shows that the number of people in the City of London claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit as of 12th November 2020 was 250. This compares with 80 claimants in November 2019– an increase of 213%.

Separate ONS figures confirmed that London had the highest unemployment rate in the UK between September and November last year- having risen to 6.5%Research published in January by City Hall and the Equal Group has also found that black men in the capital are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

With a third lockdown now in place for the foreseeable future, Mr Desai has been calling for the £20 per week uplift on Universal Credit to be kept beyond April, when it is due to be removed, and for the current five-week waiting period for initial payments to be scrapped.

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In October, the Government launched its Kickstart Scheme, which offers a six-month work placement to 16-24 years old, who are on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. However, Government figures have revealed that despite their funding of 120,000 new placements since October, only 1,868 had been filled by mid-January.

The London Assembly Member is also warning that the impact of the increasing number of job losses inflicted by the pandemic is being seen in London’s private rented sector. A survey published by Citizen’s Advice in January showed that 1 in 7 tenants in the capital are now in rent arrears.

Mr Desai said: “It’s awful to see so many people lose their livelihoods and so many businesses close as the pandemic takes its toll.

“Ministers must take action. We need job creation schemes that are fit for purpose, and Ministers must urgently patch up the holes that have been poked through the welfare system over the last decade.

“I want to see the Government keep the £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit in place beyond April and to scrap the needless five week waiting period for initial payments.

“With so many renters in the capital having fallen into arrears, the Government must take the emergency measures of extending the evictions ban much further into the future and raising Local Housing Allowance to cover average rents in an area”.

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