'Innovation key to employment support' - Work and Pensions Secretary visits NI

  • The Work and Pensions Secretary has said “agile response” is needed to help vulnerable people in NI find work, following a trip yesterday to Northern Ireland.

    Dr Thérèse Coffey said an 'innovative approach' will be key to the UK Government’s plans for successful economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The Secretary of State’s two-day visit to Northern Ireland included seeing how different social enterprises have tailored their work for vulnerable jobseekers.

    Rounding off her stay yesterday with a visit to Access Employment in Larne, she was shown how the enterprise is helping people with a learning disability to develop their skills, experience and confidence to find a job.

    This included a tour of its repackaging enterprise, Candyrush, which gives participants training and experience in the likes of stock control, warehousing, and packaging.

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    A visit of Larne Community Allotment was also arranged, which provides training in horticulture – growing fresh fruit and vegetables that can be sold through its garden centre shop and café.

    Dr Coffey said: “We know Britain has gone through a difficult time, and we’ll continue to be there to help people get back on their feet and into work again. Success stories like the ones here at Access Employment are what we want to replicate as we start to grow the economy and build back better.”

    Earlier in her visit the Secretary of State also met DWP staff working at the Universal Credit service centres in Belfast and Ballymena, whom she praised for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis: “Our staff in Northern Ireland have done a phenomenal job in supporting claimants during the busiest time in DWP history – they have played a crucial role in ensuring that families have been supported during lockdown.”

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    In July 2020, 6.8% of the NI workforce were claiming benefits, according to statistics from NISRA.

    The statistics show that this has increased over the month by 500 to 62,800 people across NI.

    80% of this claimant count in July was made up of people on Universal Credit, which replaced the income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance in September 2017.

    Data from the Department for Communities reported that more than 33,000 people from 16 to 30 March had claimed Universal Credit: ten times the normal rate.

    As of 31 May 2020, 127,310 claimants in NI were on Universal Credit and HMRC figures also show that the number of jobs impacted by coronavirus in Northern Ireland climbed to 316,200 at the end of June, with over 240,000 people furloughed.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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