Universal Credit applications spiked during lockdown, but one young man has beaten all of the odds
Reporter: Alice Richardson
Date published: 24 June 2020
The number of Universal Credit applications has spiked across Greater Manchester during lockdown, but one young man has beaten all of the odds stacked against him.
In spite of the daunting figures, Damien Haughton, aged 22, is soon to move in with his girlfriend and their new puppy after he landed a secure job in the middle of lockdown.
Damien managed to secure a job in Telecoms at the beginning of this month with support from his older brother Danny, his local Job Centre in Ashton, Tameside Adult Services, NHS staff and others.
As a young child, Damien was placed in foster care and was later diagnosed with diabetes.
This meant a life time of self-care, medication, dietary maintenance and managing medical appointments for him.
At 18, Damien began to live independently with the support of Tameside Leaving Care Team and his brother Danny.
But he was struggling to manage.
Damien was in and out of both hospital and work at this time, relying on the Job Centre in Ashton to support him.
The team of support increased with DWP staff assessing his finances, exploring available opportunities for him and offering help and training.
A team effort from the Transitions Team; Adult Services; the NHS; the Job Centre and others meant that Damien was able to get rid of debt and improve his health vastly within just a 12 month period.
At the beginning of June 2020, during the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Damien successfully applied for a job as ‘Business Development Manager’ as part of the Tameside Youth Employment Scheme at Exeltel in Hyde.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are continuing to support Damien throughout his period of training and he is enjoying the job very much.
“He still wants to work in theatre with his great experience and qualifications in the performing arts, but he is level headed and mature and knows that this job is going to enable him to have a stable future where he and his girlfriend can move in together to look after their new puppy.
“Everyone who has worked with him has found him to be a pleasure to work with and all wish him the very best for his future.”
But others haven’t been so lucky.
While the number of people claiming Universal Credit do not necessarily show a linked rise in unemployment, the benefit is designed to top up earnings when income drops – so claimants could be either fully unemployed or have experienced a reduction in their income.
The overall increase in UC applications seen during the lockdown months therefore reflects both the lower income levels, and levels of unemployment seen during this difficult time.
Across the North West region, a total of 683,222 people individually applied for Universal Credit in May, and there were 581,053 applicants in April.
In February this year, there had been just 172,917 applicants across the whole of the North West according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Across Greater Manchester, the picture is more varied.
Manchester saw the highest number of new applicants siging on for Universal Credit in May with 67,274 people in total.
Wigan was next with 30,808 new applicants, followed by Oldham with 29,733.
Bolton had 28,193, Salford 27,427, Rochdale 24,673, Tameside 24,544, Stockport had 19,992, Bury 16,540 and Trafford 16,019.
Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “Today’s figures are starting to show the impact of Covid-19 on our economy, but our furlough scheme, grants, loans and tax cuts have protected thousands of businesses and millions of jobs, setting us up for recovery.
“Already our nationwide network of work coaches have moved in to support jobseekers across sectors and match them with employers who are recruiting.
"By responding to the needs of communities across the UK they will be at the heart of our revival and renewal, helping people find new roles and move forward with their lives.”
More information about the Furlough Scheme can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.
More information about the help available for the self-employed can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support and on the website: www.gov.uk/hmrc
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