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‘Very worrying time’ - unemployment in Ipswich nearly DOUBLES amid swathe of job cuts

Ipwich has seen a huge rise in claims for unemployment benefit. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipwich has seen a huge rise in claims for unemployment benefit. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Unemployment benefit claims in Ipswich nearly doubled in the space of a few months, as hundreds of people lost their jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, has urged people to seek advice about redundancy processes. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYNelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, has urged people to seek advice about redundancy processes. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Citizens Advice in Ipswich said the “impact of the pandemic has led to record numbers claiming benefits”, with 3,005 more people claiming out of work benefits between March and July this year.

That means 6,280 people - 1,205 of them young people - in Suffolk’s county town are claiming unemployment benefits, with Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere saying it was the “largest it has ever been”.

MORE: Ipswich sees huge rise in benefit claims as coronavirus crisis bites

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, said it had also seen a doubling in queries about redundancy month-on-month since March, adding: “We have been helping people who never thought they would be in this position.”

David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader, has warned the problems could get worse before they get better. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDavid Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader, has warned the problems could get worse before they get better. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Yet the problem, many fear, is only likely to get worse.

A survey of more than 150 businesses by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has revealed that 32% are thinking about making redundancies, so they themselves can make ends meet.

Bailiffs are also being given the go-ahead to start evictions for rent and mortgage arrears from August 24, after a temporary reprieve during the coronavirus crisis.

MORE: Hardship bites as more benefit claims made to Ipswich council during coronavirus crisis

More than 6,000 people are claiming unemployment benefits in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATERMore than 6,000 people are claiming unemployment benefits in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Mr Ellesmere said: “There was always going to be an economic price to the coronavirus pandemic,” claiming that because the government “acted too slowly to lock down, the UK economy is facing a bigger hit than most European countries”.

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He added: “We’ve already seen this in Ipswich – the number of people claiming out of work benefits has doubled since March and is now the largest it has ever been.

“As bad as this is, it is going to get worse because the government is starting to reduce the support it gives to businesses to retain jobs.

“This is going to be a very worrying time for thousands of families in Ipswich. They are seeing a significant drop in their income as they experience just how threadbare the benefits safety net has become.

“It is going to be harder to get another job, as vacancies are falling at the same time as unemployment is rising. The statutory and voluntary organisations who can help them are suffering from the effects of the pandemic themselves.”

He called on the government to “step up to the plate to save jobs, lives and livelihoods by investing in industries that most need support”.

MORE: Shock figures show rise in out-of-work young people post lockdown

Ms van Helfteren added that people trying to claim benefits for the first time “are finding it difficult to navigate the process”.

Many think losing their job means they can receive money - but she said: “Numbers of people who are starting a claim for unemployment benefits find they are ineligible for financial help because of either savings accrued which take them over the allowable threshold or because their partner is in work.”

She added that Citizens Advice can help people to work out what they could claim and how to go about it, such as council tax reductions and discretionary housing payments for people in rented accommodation.

The organisation also offers tips on debt and money management - and urges people to: “Get advice on how to deal with arrears with rent, mortgage or council tax before formal collection processes, as this will raise the debt due.”

Ms van Helfteren also urged people to get advice on redundancy selection processes, to make sure they get payments that are due to them and that jobs selected for redundancy are done so fairly.

■ Contact Citizens Advice Ipswich on 0300 330 1151 or visit the Citizens Advice Ipswich website.


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