Universal credit claims up, depression widespread, youth unemployment rocketing, domestic abuse on the rise - a snapshot of how the pandemic is hitting the people of Cambridgeshire

PUBLISHED: 08:40 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:40 21 October 2020

How the coronavirus is affecting all of our lives - and its a grim picture says new county council report.  Picture; TERRY HARRY HARRIS

How the coronavirus is affecting all of our lives - and its a grim picture says new county council report. Picture; TERRY HARRY HARRIS

Terry Harris 07747606996

The number of Universal Credit claimants in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is rocketing and the numbers claiming benefits are higher than the 2008 financial crisis, a county council report has warned.

“Universal Credit claimant count is a clear indicator of economic impact and we have seen rates in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough more than double across the whole patch,” says the report.

“Claimant rates are now higher than in the 2008 banking crisis. At that time, claimant rates locally persisted beyond the technical end of the recession in 2012, into 2015, so one area for action locally should focus on

supporting people who ‘fall out’ of the job market in this way”.

The report offers a snapshot overview of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have had on the health and lives of residents.

Among the many findings, it also reveals:-

• A predicted 104pc increase in working adults developing depression

• A fifth to a quarter of the county’s 20,000 keyworkers are at risk of anxiety, depression or PTSD

• Youth unemployment has already risen sharply, increasing from 2.6pc to 7.2pc in August

• 46,000 school pupils were considered not to be fully engaged in their education between March and July

• An 11pc increase in referrals to domestic abuse support services between April and June compared to the same period last year

Mental health is one of five key areas covered in the report, which was published ahead of Cambridgeshire County Council’s General Purposes Committee meeting on October 20.

It said: “Elements like changes to normal routine, isolation from friends, boredom, anxiety about friends and family and Covid-19, and financial worries are all key factors driving an anticipated increase in the number of people who have clinically meaningful mental ill-health.

“A model developed by Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust has been used to estimate the number of people who may develop mental ill-health as a result of the pandemic.

“This highlights a possible 19,000 working age adults developing anxiety (a 20pc increase) and 59,000 working age adults developing depression (a 104pc increase) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, from general impacts of social and economic restrictions.”

It added: “Additionally, there are expected to be impacts on frontline key worker staff, with a fifth to a quarter of the 20,000 key worker staff in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough at risk of anxiety, depression or PTSD...

“Of people who are newly unemployed, the expectation is that 18pc of them will develop mental ill-health as a result, and that following hospitalisation and recovery up to a third will experience depression.”

Universal Credit claimants have now more than doubled across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and it is estimated approximately 19,000 jobs are now at risk. If all these roles were lost at once, it “would double the (increased) claimant count again” the report warns.

“Claimant rates are now higher than in the 2008 banking crisis,” it says.

“At that time, claimant rates locally persisted beyond the technical end of the recession in 2012, into 2015, so one area for action locally should focus on supporting people who ‘fall out’ of the job market in this way.”

The substantial increase in youth unemployment from 2.6pc to 7.2pc is attributed to this group being involved in sectors which are at most risk from the pandemic such as accommodation and food services.

“If the sectors that typically employ younger people contract following the pandemic, this makes it harder for them to get a first step on the career ladder; then a more general economic downturn will make it harder for them to achieve wage growth by moving into better paying occupations because there are fewer opportunities,” the report says.

It was also revealed 97.5pc of the 137,000 children and young people missed school between March and May 2020. For the 80pc of children who missed school for this entire period, their attendance rate for the year was around 62pc.

“A national survey in May reported that 42pc of pupils did not return their last piece of work, the report says.

However there a bright spot since “due to limits on freedom of movement and less interactions in public places between victims and offenders,says the report. “The occurrence of hate crime was lower in 2020 (down 46%), relative to the same period in 2019 (951 and 1753 crimes and incidents, respectively). This does not include incidence of hate crimes online however”. The pandemic and pandemic response provided scammers with opportunities.”


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