More than one million Londoners are claiming Universal Credit

More than one million Londoners are claiming Universal Credit

Over one million Londoners, close to one in nine, have been claiming Universal Credit in recent months as the financial impacts of the pandemic intensify.

A new briefing from City Hall’s intelligence unit using Department for Work and Pensions figures confirms that the one million barrier was broken earlier this year, continuing a steady rise from just over 400,000 in March 2020 when the first lockdown began.

Of the current one million-plus claimants 467,000 are categorised as searching for work while a further 180,000 are in some form of employment but are “expected to look for more or better work”, the briefing says.

Another 186,000 Londoners are finding their incomes insufficient and claiming Universal Credit to top-up their limited earnings. In some cases, these are people supported by the government’s furlough scheme, which covers most of but not all of their usual wage.

Close to 200,000 Londoners claiming the benefit are not expected to be working for reasons of poor health or because they have to care for others. This is the group whose numbers have increased the least since March 2020.

The total number of Universal Credit claimants in Britain has doubled since Covid-19 struck but the briefing says it “has increased further and more rapidly in London than in any other region”.

A previously “relatively low” proportion of the capital’s working age residents has risen to around 17.5 per cent and now matches that of the North East of England, which had the highest proportion in the country pre-Covid.

The overall London claimant increase of 140 per cent has not be evenly spread, with Newham and Brent seeing the largest increases both as a proportion of their working age residents and in absolute numbers. Each borough now contains over 30,000 more Universal Credit claimants than they did pre-pandemic. The number in Brent is “nearly three times as high as in March 2020”, the briefing says.

There are now nine boroughs where more than one in five residents are claimants, including Barking & Dagenham, Croydon and Hounslow.

New research by think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research has shown that the proportion of “working poor” households in London is much higher than in the rest of the UK.

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