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Devastating Financial Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic in The Highlands

Unprecedented Increase in Universal Credit Take-Up in The Highlands.

Universal Credit statistics, recently published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), highlight the devastating financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on residents, communities and businesses in the Highlands.

DWP’s published data reveals there was almost a 75% increase in the number of Universal Credit claimants throughout Highland when comparing take-up at March 2020 with the position in December 2020. 

Whilst the number of people claiming Universal Credit in all areas of Highland have increased significantly, DWP report that a staggering 49 out of the 56 areas in Highland have increased by 50% or more.

In addition, 19 areas have experienced increased staggering take-up levels in excess of 100%.

The largest increase has been experienced in Skye North West with an increase of 185%.  Meanwhile, Skye North East; Ross and Cromarty South West; Skye South; Lochaber West; Ross and Cromarty North West and Sutherland North and West experienced similar increases, ranging from 134% to 153%.

Universal Credit is a benefit which was first introduced by DWP to Inverness Jobcentre in 2013. 

It has since been rolled out to all Highland Jobcentres and can be claimed by those who are unemployed or to provide top-up amounts for those on low incomes.

These Universal Credit figures illustrate that some 8,500 individuals within Highland faced unemployment or a reduction in earnings during December 2020.

Highland Council Depute Leader, and Chair of the Recovery Board, Cllr Alasdair Christie, said:

“These figures paint a very sobering picture and quite clearly illustrate the catastrophic impact that the pandemic is having within Highland communities, which of course impacts local spend and therefore our local businesses. 

“This scale of increase in the take-up of Universal Credit simply hasn’t been seen before and demonstrates just how severe the financial situation is for many Highland residents.

He continued:

“The fact that more than a third of the 56 geographical areas within Highland are experiencing such eye-watering increases of more than 100% in the number of Universal Credit claimants, is a real cause for concern and underlines the disproportionate financial impact of COVID-19 for an increasing number of our citizens.

“The Council’s Welfare Support Team and Citizens Advice are supporting an increasing number of households to claim all the financial support that is available to them, including the local scheme recently launched by the Council to reduce fuel bills.

“No-one should suffer in silence. 

“My advice is to contact the Council’s Welfare Support Team on 0800 090 1004 or to contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux to access the expert advice and support that is available.”

DWP Published Universal Credit Stats: movement in take-up
 Mar 2020
No of claimants
Dec 2020
No of claimants
% change since March
Skye North West64183185.94%
Sutherland North and West96243153.13%
Ross and Cromarty North West100246146.00%
Lochaber West136329141.91%
Skye South105251139.05%
Ross and Cromarty South West80189136.25%
Skye North East148347134.46%
Lochalsh108248129.63%
Inverness Slackbuie93211126.88%
Badenoch and Strathspey South118267126.27%
Loch Ness140312122.86%
Badenoch and Strathspey North137303121.17%
Ross and Cromarty East82181120.73%
Inverness East Rural167364117.96%
Badenoch and Strathspey Central195421115.90%
Fort William South313654108.95%
Lochaber East and North173360108.09%
Inverness Drakies62127104.84%
Caithness North East95190100.00%
Black Isle North8917697.75%
Inverness Scorguie9819295.92%
Inverness Crown and Haugh14327995.10%
Inverness Culloden and Balloch14928893.29%
Inverness Lochardil and Holm Mains15028992.67%
Inverness Smithton16231191.98%
Inverness Westhill21439986.45%
Nairn Rural12723685.83%
Fort William North19836182.32%
Sutherland South20737782.13%
Ross and Cromarty Central12321877.24%
Seaboard24542171.84%
Nairn West15426471.43%
Inverness Inshes23039370.87%
Black Isle South19833669.70%
Muir of Ord17629768.75%
Inverness Drummond22237468.47%
Sutherland East19231664.58%
Inverness West Rural27444963.87%
Inverness Hilton29948963.55%
Nairn East27044062.96%
Conon17628360.80%
Invergordon40064060.00%
Inverness Muirtown37860259.26%
Tain25540157.25%
Inverness Kinmylies and South West26441356.44%
Alness49076556.12%
Dingwall35655455.62%
Inverness Ballifeary and Dalneigh43566753.33%
Thurso East15723750.96%
Inverness Central, Raigmore and Longman41361949.88%
Caithness North West17225548.26%
Caithness South9413442.55%
Wick North18926942.33%
Thurso West28540542.11%
Wick South31845141.82%
Inverness Merkinch62785836.84%
Total11,31819,89975.82%