Number of Portsmouth residents claiming benefits has doubled since lockdown

MORE support is needed for the unemployed, politicians have said, after data showed benefit claims in Portsmouth have almost doubled since lockdown.
The number of Portsmouth residents claiming benefits has almost doubled during lockdownThe number of Portsmouth residents claiming benefits has almost doubled during lockdown
The number of Portsmouth residents claiming benefits has almost doubled during lockdown

Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions revealed the number of those claiming either Universal Credit or jobseeker's allowance in the city had risen from 8,610 to 16,590 between March and April this year.

And according to analysis by charity Centre for Cities, Portsmouth experienced the 14th highest surge in claims in the whole of the UK and the single largest increase in the south of England.

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Tory Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt believed it would be possible to 'get the economy back to growth.' She said: 'We are a really entrepreneurial city, we have a lot of self-employed, or people with small businesses who will have been hit hard by the lockdown.

'Some firms will be able to keep going once they are permitted but others may have to close and their owners or employees switch to new professions. To get the economy back to growth will take a massive effort, but we will do it. We’ve done it before and we will do it again.'

However, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, of the Labour party, believed government would need to make changes. 'I have welcomed some of government’s measures to address financial insecurity but figures clearly show they do not match the scale of the crisis,' he said.

'Alongside raising our city’s concerns directly with the minister, I back proposals that would heavily improve the reach of current support networks.

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'Among other things, Labour’s plan would see an end to the five-week wait for funds, cut the number of people disqualified from claiming, and suspend the benefit cap. Poverty is not inevitable, and the right policies can make a difference.'

Locally the Shaping Portsmouth organisation, which seeks to champion businesses, education and communities, is due to create a board to act as a point of support businesses and individuals.

Stef Nienaltowski, chief executive of Shaping Portsmouth, said: 'The first task the board will have is to analyse those individual people and put them in categories of those who want to start a business, and those who don't.

'In the coming weeks we will put together a programme taking specific actions to get those people in employment or to look at how they can help their business or set up a new one.'

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Chief executive of Centre for Cities, Andrew Carter, added: 'Portsmouth needs a recovery package designed for its specific economic profile. Without this there is a real concern that the places struggling before the lockdown will fall even further behind.'

Southampton saw an increase of claimants from 5,215 to 12,055 between March and April.

Nationally 2.1 million people made claims in April, which was 850,000 more than the month before.

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