The number of Dundonians claiming Universal Credit rose by a whopping 517% in the first month of the coronavirus pandemic.
Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics, sourced from the Department for Work and Pensions, show 3,396 people registered for the benefit between March 12 and April 9.
It is a huge increase on the period running from February to March, when 550 people signed on, and includes both jobseekers and those who claim Universal Credit but are unable to work.
However, the vast majority of the new claimants are either required to look for work or are preparing to start a job.
After moves to other JobCentres are taken into account, the total number of claimants on file at the Dundee JobCentre stands at 13,157, up 2,633 from 10,524 the previous month.
Jane McEwen, service manager at Dundee’s JobCentre Plus, says she and her team are coping well with the additional demand and are doing their best to support those out of work.
“There’s been a record increase in the volume of people making claims to Universal Credit, and we have focused on making sure people get paid their money,” she said.
“We’ve closed the doors here but we’re phoning people and have a new callback system so we don’t have customers sitting on phones for hours on end waiting to get through, which has been very positive.
“We’re hitting 95% payment accuracy so there aren’t issues down the line, and we’re now looking at contacting them to do customer care, giving them information about how to manage themselves.”
Analysis conducted by research unit, Centre for Cities also showed that the City of Discovery had the second highest percentage change in Scotland relating to the number of new people claiming unemployment benefit – with only Glasgow registering a higher percentage change from the month of March.
Despite the majority of employers in sectors such as leisure and hospitality closing their doors during the pandemic, Ms McEwen says opportunities are still out there for those who want to work.
She added: “It’s quite surreal in the office – we normally have banks of desks together but we can’t do that at the moment due to social distancing. But we are still here to help.”
Figures from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Dundee also show that he number of people in the city seeking advice on crisis grants has seen a sharp increase since the beginning of lockdown.
Tracy McNally, director of the CAB Dundee, explained: “In March, one in 50 pieces of advice that we gave in relation to social security benefit was on crisis grants.
“But in April, that rose to one in 20 which is a huge increase and I would say the reason for that is the basic need for money.
“I would stress the importance of getting a benefit check to people. Just because you may not be eligible for Universal Credit, there may be other benefits out there you are entitled to.”