Another 3,603 people claimed Universal Credit (UC) across Kent & Medway in Jan 2021, meaning that 17% of the working population aged between 16 – 64 is now unemployed in the County.
As a number 17% represents 160,844 individuals claiming UC in February (latest data). As of Nov 2020, the latest data avaliable shows 106,424 households across all Kent Councils, were claiming UC which is equivalent to 16% of all Kent households claiming UC.
Universal Credit is a payment to help with living costs for those on a low income or who are out of work. Universal Credit provides a single payment per household based upon the circumstances of the household. Support for housing costs, children and childcare costs are integrated into Universal Credit.
Universal Credit can be claimed even if the claimant is still employed but they have a low income. Many people have seen their income reduce due to coronavirus measures. For example, if a person has been furloughed and their income has fallen to 80% of their usual income, they may be able to make a claim for Universal Credit.
Those in the hospitality and arts; entertainment and leisure; and retail and wholesale (as well as in construction) sectors have taken advantage of the furlough scheme and some large Kent businesses with exposure to the travel and tourism sector (such as P&O and Saga) have announced major redundancies.
Three issues are worth highlighting in relation to the employment impacts on different sectors:
First, some of the most severely impacted sectors in Kent, such as retail and hospitality have traditionally been relatively labour-intensive and have tended to be important sources of lower wage and entry-level jobs. These lower-income workers have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment and temporary furlough arrangements, and that reduced entry-level jobs continues to disproportionately impact younger people joining the labour market.
Second, the pandemic will lead to some structural, as well as temporary, changes in labour demand: for example, the crisis has accelerated trends towards online retailing and home working that were already emerging, driven by technology. Although the picture is still uncertain, it’s likely that the shape of the economy (and the jobs required) will be somewhat different post pandemic. This will be further advanced in some sectors by a continued shift towards automation, which may itself be a means of building resilience to health-related shocks.
Third, despite the poor general climate for employment and a fall in advertised vacancies, from 48,000 unique job vacancies in July 2020 to 29,000 in Feb 2021. The highest number were in nursing, care, driving, teaching and cleaning, with (unsurprisingly) a continued decline in catering and hospitality. So while overall, the current crisis is a crisis of demand, there are still supply-side challenges in enabling workers to change sectors and occupations.
Unemployment has risen sharply in all age groups since March 2020. However, evidence from previous recessions suggests that younger workers and new entrants to the labour market are likely to be especially at risk of unemployment as the pandemic continues. Younger workers are also especially vulnerable to longer term ‘scarring’, with periods out of work at the start of their career affecting job and wage prospects in future years.
Claimant Count by age, Kent & Medway
Research for DWP highlights employer perceptions and digital skills barriers as particular challenges, with those aged 50+ and facing redundancy recognised as a priority group by Jobcentre Plus. Potentially, the risks to older workers could be greater than in previous recessions, given the later state pension age and the increasing tendency for people to work past retirement age.
Females traditionally account for a larger proportion of Universal Credit claimants in Kent & Medway. As of Mar 2020, 46,584 females were claiming UC. By Dec 2020 this had risen to 83,258, a rise of 78.7%. However, the proportion of male claimants has increased significantly from 33,217 in March 2020 to 72,868 as of Dec 2020, a rise of 116.1%.
As the number of persons claiming UC rises, this means more people become entitled to Council Tax Reduction. As such, the total amount of Council Tax collected by each Kent Council will shrink. This will put pressure on services and potentially lead Councils to borrow, or draw on their reserves.
Many people who are in receipt of UC may not get all their rent paid, or mortgage payments. We strongly advise any person affected to contact their nearest Citizens Advice Bureau to get expert advice.
If you find yourself having to make a claim for UC, we would strongly advise you collect together all your financial incomings (wages slips etc) and outgoings ( council tax, water, electricity, gas etc)
If you need to claim Universal Credit you can do so ⇒ here
If you need to understand what Universal Credit is, a good explainer can be found ⇒ here
Once accepted onto UC you can apply for Council Tax Reduction by making an application online or by phone with your local council
All councils also offer a Discretionary Housing Payment to top up you rent for a max of 3 months. Again you can apply online or by phone to your local council.
If on UC you can also apply for the Low Water Tariff from your water provider. You will need to supply supporting evidence and can make an application ⇒ here
Also if you are on UC you can apply for the Low Water Tariff from the company who takes your sewage away such as Southern Water Water for example. You’ll need to complete the application form.
The Shepwayvox Team
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