Manchester Jobseeker’s Allowance claim plunge is ‘too little too late’, claim MPs

Mancunians applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance need ‘support and extra resources’ according to Labour MP Graham Stringer, despite the number of claimants plummeting over the last year.

The report released in February by Manchester City Council Economy Dashboard shows over a 20% drop in people applying for JSA.

Despite this, Harpurhey remains the most deprived of the Manchester wards with 8-10% of the working-age population currently claiming benefits.

Mr Stringer, who represents the Broughton and Blackley constituency which includes Harpurhey, applauded the drop in JSA claims but called on the government to provide more help for people in the north Manchester ward.

“It is not enough and it has come too late, but it is good that it is going in the right direction,” he said.

“The government is not doing enough to support and help those people who have been unemployed for a long time – those people need specialist support and extra resources.”

Manchester has bucked the predicted unemployment trend line, which forecasted a JSA claims rate of 6% for January with 4.4% of the working age population classed as unemployed.

Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, is pleased with the drop in claimants but warned there is still work to do in order to get the employment rate back to pre-2008 levels.

“It’s welcome news that there has been a drop in the number of people out of work over the last year but there should be no room for complacency,” she said.

“There are still around 50% more people out of work across the city than there were before the financial crash in 2008 and many more struggling to get by each month because of rising prices and falling wages.”

Using figures taken from the Office for National Statistic, the report shows 4,062 fewer people applied over the last 12 months in Manchester, leaving the total at 16,120.

These encouraging figures reflect a wider range of positive change with a 23.6% reduction in JSA claimants across Greater Manchester, dropping by 20,116 to 65,094.

The progress made in the region has outstripped that in the rest of the UK, as Greater Manchester’s reduction of those signing on eclipsed the national figure by 2.2%.

Despite the headway made over the past year, between December and January there was a slight rise in the number of JSA claims, with Manchester and Greater Manchester increasing by 1.5% and 2.9% respectively.

Esther McVey, Minister of State for Employment, commended the North West on creating more jobs, which was helped by a large number of people starting their own business.

“The North West saw its unemployment rate fall to 8.1% over the last year – lower than London’s, which shows that the growing economy is helping people to find new opportunities and turn their lives around,” she said.

“The rise in employment nationally is being fuelled by businesses and entrepreneurs across the country who are feeling increasingly confident with the improving economy.

“They should be congratulated for creating over 1.7 million private sector jobs since 2010 – that’s over 1000 more people in private sector jobs every day.”

The JSA claims decrease also could be in part attributed to Iain Duncan Smith’s hard-line approach to those who claim benefits but are not deemed to be doing enough to secure employment.

Department of Work and Pensions figures show that there has been an 11% increase in penalties for breaching rules, such as not turning up to meetings with good reason, not making a conscientious effort to find work independently or failing to take up work opportunities.

The punishment for a first offence is being docked a week’s benefits, with the strongest sanction of a three year suspension reserved for repeat offenders.

Image couresty of Helen Cobain, via Flickr, with thanks

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