Embarrassment over signing on to benefits could have caused the number of jobseeker's allowance claimants to fall despite an increase in unemployment rates
The number of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants continues to fall in the News & Mail area, however the number of those unemployed is increasing in most local authority areas.
This is the picture painted by Office of National Statistics (ONS) data used to measure the extent of unemployment issues across the country, as it was claimed that those without jobs may be ‘embarrassed’ to sign on.
The most recent unemployment figures for June, based on ONS survey data, show that the number of unemployed people in Rushmoor increased by 23.3% from June last year despite the number of those claiming JSA falling by 12.1% in the same period.
The same trends were also seen in neighbouring local authorities. In Surrey Heath, unemployment increased by 9.5% while JSA claimants decreased by 12.6%.
Guildford borough, which covers Ash, recorded the biggest fall in JSA claimants at 20.7% while unemployment increased by 14.3%, and, in Waverley, unemployment increased by 3.8% with JSA claimants falling by 11.3%.
Hart, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham were the only local authorities in the News & Mail area in which both the number of unemployed people and JSA claimants fell.
In Hart, the unemployment decrease of 5.3% was outweighed by the 16.9% fall in JSA claimants.
UNISON spokesman Jenny Mason said: “Across Surrey and Hampshire, a huge number of redundancies have been made in local government, health and the police sectors as a result of government cuts to public sector spending. This has led to a reduction in the services that are available to local people.
“While we know an increasing number of our members are contacting our welfare charity for debt advise, the decline in the numbers seeking out of work benefits reflects our long held belief that many people are embarrassed to claim benefits, despite being entitled to them after years of paying taxes and national insurance.
“The tide of negative publicity surrounding people claiming benefits and the increasing complexity of accessing the benefit system has no doubt added to the non-take-up of entitled benefits.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions questioned the accuracy of local unemployment figures based on the ONS survey.
She said the unemployment figures took into account people who were out of work but not actively seeking employment, whereas the JSA figures focused solely on those claiming that particular benefit by signing on.
She said the increase in unemployment could have been caused by people reaching the end of the six-month period in which they can claim JSA.
Under rule changes announced last month by the chancellor George Osborne, long-term unemployed people will be forced to undertake work placements to ‘earn’ their benefits. People will also have to stay on the programme until they found a job rather than be limited to the current six months.
Alex Hughes, chief officer of Rushmoor Citizens Advice Bureau, said the stricter rules introduced for benefits claimants may have put many off signing on.
“It’s causing us an enormous amount of problems,” she said.
“Certain conditions have to be met, like applying for so many jobs a week. People’s benefits are being stopped or withdrawn and they are confused.
“People are also asked to go online to process their claims and that’s not easy if you haven’t got the computer skills.
“We are having to refer people to food banks where they have run out of money.”