The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said that is has hired close to 10,000 new “work coaches” in response to an unprecented surge in the number of new Universal Credit claims due to the ongoing Covid crisis.
Official figures show that the number of Universal Claims have almost doubled since the UK government were forced to enact strict lockdown measures in March 2020.
It comes as rumours mount that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will maintain the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit for a further six months.
This comes in the face of mounting pressure from opposition parties and a growing number of charities and organisations.
The uplift is said to be worth more than £1000 a year to hard-up families who continue to struggle to make ends meet because of the economic fallout caused by the ongoing crisis.
Announcing the new “recruitment drive”, Minister for Employment Mims Davis said the strengthened workforce “will form the backbone of our bold and ambitious Plan for Jobs”, whilst adding that the UK government is commited to “build back better from the pandemic.”
It includes the new £2 billion Kickstart scheme which puts young people receiving benefits first in line for new, high quality, six-month roles provided by employers from all sectors.
Meanwhile, the £238 million JETS programme aims to target those who have been out of work for three months or more with a range of help from employment experts.
And the DWP claim that new employment support for 40,000 jobseekers of all ages through the Work Academy Programme will help jobseeker’s to learn new skills through a mixture of work experience and training. They say that this will be followed up with a genuine job interview.
The new Government plans aim “to ensure no-one is left behind in the nation’s recovery”, but it hasn’t come without criticism and a significant degree of doubt.
It is reported that six million people are now claiming the new Universal Credit benefit, which is replacing a number of legacy benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – a 98% increase.
Defending the Universal Credit system, welfare Minister Will Quince said: “It is a vital safety net that has stood up to the challenge of the pandemic, and with thousands of new work coaches we are helping claimants across the country get back on their feet with one-to-one tailored support.
“Universal Credit is one of the pillars of our support for families with lower incomes.”
Up to 4.5 million people have signed up for Universal Credit since March and 1.5 million have stopped receiving the benefit.
Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save The Children said: “Struggling families have seen their household budgets stretched to the limit by the pandemic, and they will continue to feel the financial impacts of this crisis for some time.
“Parents tell us that, even with the extra £20 a week, they’re having to make impossible choices – skipping meals, running up debts, or relying on charities and food banks to feed their children.
“Our country’s safety net is supposed to help those who need it through difficult times. But instead of helping families to get back on their feet, we’re talking about taking over £1000 a year away from them during a pandemic.
“Providing support for only another six months just won’t cut it.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will outline his plans for Universal Credit in the Spring Budget.