Bleak Midwinter: Christmas on the dole for a second year
The number of people spending their second successive Christmas on the dole will double to over 200,000 this year.
Official statistics show the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for more than 12 months has increased from 103,930 in December 2008 to 201,015 in November 2009, and we can see the number of long-term dole claimants continuing to rise into the new year.
The pattern is spread around the country too, with the number of JSA claimants more than doubling in 267 local authority areas across the UK, with sharp rises in rural areas such as East and North Dorset, and in big cities like Sheffield, Dudley and Bristol.
And for those unfortunate enough to be spending a second Christmas on the dole, it will be tough for them to stretch benefits far enough to have even a half-decent festive celebration. The Grocer magazine recently totted up a supermarket trolley of the cheapest Christmas staples as costing a family over £100 (before decorations and presents). A weekly individual JSA of £64.30 (£50.95 for under 26s) isn’t going to buy a lot of Christmas cheer.
To counter this in 2010, we’re calling on the Government to extend its job guarantee for young people so that anyone out of work for 18 months is entitled to a job paying at least the minimum wage for a minimum of six months, and to let those at the greatest risk of becoming stuck in long-term unemployment access jobs earlier than that.
It’s important to recognise that Government investment has kept unemployment well below the levels reached in previous recessions, but the stark reality of two such Christmases for more than 200,000 this year really drives home the message that there can be no room for complacency on long term unemployment.