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Gloucestershire Business News

Parts of Gloucestershire see 50 per cent rise in benefit claims

The Cotswolds and Forest of Dean both saw more than 50 per cent rises in Universal Credit applications up to the start of April.

Across Gloucestershire, 9,845 more people applied for the benefit up to April 9 - a figure which is set to rise with the first full month of lockdown restrictions still to be reflected in the figures.

In all, 33,054 people lodged claims across the county's six authorities, up from 23,209.

The highest number is in the Gloucester City Council area with 8,886 applicants - up 39.7 per cent from 6,361 the previous month - but more rural areas saw the biggest impact as the coronavirus impact was felt.

Cotswold District Council saw the number of claimants rise by 52.5 per cent with 1,280 new applications taking the total to 3,718.

Forest of Dean District Council is not far behind with 1,677 more people seeking Universal Credit, a rise of 50.8 per cent to 4,975.

And the Tewkesbury Borough Council area saw 1,433 more applications, a 47.9 per cent rise to 4,427 while in Stroud district the increase was 40.6 per cent - 1,446 to 5,007.

The lowest percentage rise was in Cheltenham borough with a 32.6 per cent increase seeing the numbers increase by 1,484 to 6,041.

Staff from different departments have been drafted in by the Department for Work and Pensions in Gloucestershire with many giving up leave, retraining and switching from part-time to full-time roles to help process the rise in claims.

A spokesman for the DWP in the county said: "We have started instigating customer care support calls to check in with people and see how we can help and support, talking to customers about free on line training and updating on local vacancies where appropriate.

"We are signposting customers to local organisations where there may be the need for extra support.

"There is a positive response to want to return to work or self-employment."

Nationally, more than 1.9 million new Universal Credit claims were processed in the period with official figures showing 93 per cent were paid on time.

Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said: "Jobcentre staff have done a fantastic job of processing record numbers of Universal Credit claims and getting support to people who need it quickly."

Paid monthly, Universal Credit is a single payment which replaced Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit.

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