The number of working age people in receipt of out-of-work benefits in Knowsley has almost doubled during the Coronavirus pandemic, according to recent data released by the Office of National Statistics. The new Claimant Count figures show that in the last three months the number of claimants in the Borough has risen to 8,400 – 9% of the working age population in Knowsley, and well above the national average of 6.5%.
And with around 16,500 more Knowsley residents currently furloughed (1 in 4 working people in Knowsley) these figures are almost certain to rise in the coming months as businesses struggle to restart.
These early indications have ignited even further concern that the longer term financial impact of COVID-19 could be severely damaging for the economy in Knowsley and for the lives of thousands of residents in the Borough.
Councillor Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said: “It was abundantly clear from the outset that people’s lives – not just from a health perspective – would be detrimentally impacted by COVID-19. We aren’t alone in that impact and we know that people the length and breadth of the UK are really struggling.
Here in Knowsley, we are already seeing a significant impact on our residents’ financial circumstances. The increases in benefit claims tells a powerful and worrying story especially as this is happening even whilst the furlough scheme is still up and running.
When you add to that the fact that some of our businesses are already announcing redundancies, we are naturally very concerned.”
In addition to the support it has provided to businesses throughout the pandemic, the Council’s Knowsley Works team is also working to support residents to find new employment opportunities or access training wherever possible. But they too are seeing an impact with new vacancies almost halving in number in recent months (by 47% from 15 March to 26 April which again is higher than the national average).
The Council is providing a range of support to residents and businesses and is working with agencies across the Liverpool City Region and in the private sector to stimulate the economy including local high streets and take steps to support financial recovery across the Borough.
Councillor Morgan added; “We are completely committed to supporting businesses and the economy in Knowsley and in getting our residents into work again. That also includes providing the support they may need in the interim. Sadly, our financial situation does leave us in a difficult position. Our projections to date show that we are facing a funding gap of up to £24 million due to COVID-19. Despite this, we are trying to do everything we can to support businesses and residents in Knowsley.
I know I have said it repeatedly but we really do need some assurances from central Government that they will stay true to their word and do whatever it takes to help us to help our communities.
We don’t want anyone to feel like they are on their own with this. We will help people wherever we possibly can.”
If you’re a Knowsley resident who needs support with training or employment opportunities, the Knowsley Works team is available to discuss your options and see how they can help. Call the team on 0151 443 5010 (Huyton), 0151 443 4780 (Kirkby) or 0151 443 2020 (Halewood).
The Knowsley Support and Volunteer Hub is also available seven days a week to provide help and support if you or your family are struggling. You can call the team on 0800 073 0043. The helpline is available from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday.
Invest Knowsley is available to support the local business community through this difficult time. From accessing grants to advice around risk assessments and social distancing in the workplace, the team can be contacted on 0151 477 4000.
If you’re worried about your finances, you can contact the Knowsley Mutual Credit Union on 0151 545 3380, the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644, or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on 0845 122 1300. You may also find this guide from the Money Saving Expert helpful in understand the help which is available.