‘We’re not the town that won’t work’ – Delight at Hartlepool’s jobless figures

Chris Livingstone of JobCentre Plus
Chris Livingstone of JobCentre Plus

A JOB centre chief hopes the latest fall in unemployment figures will help Hartlepool shake off the image of being the town that doesn’t want to work.

Hartlepool is regularly near top of ‘league of shame’ tables when it comes to jobless figures, but the latest statistics showing that 3,045 are out of work in the town are the lowest since 2008.

Chris Livingstone of JobCentre Plus

Chris Livingstone of JobCentre Plus

And while Chris Livingston, senior operations manager for JobCentre Plus in Teesside, is refusing to get complacent about the figures she admits the town is “moving in the right direction”.

Chris, who works at Job Centres across the North East, said: “We have to be delighted with the figures, it is always good news to seem them falling.

“I’m aware the figures regionally may not be as good as they are nationally, but we have started at a lower base so we are moving in the right direction.

“Here in Hartlepool we are very busy on a daily basis trying to help people into work.

“Our aim is to get 70 per cent of our claimants back into work within three months of them first claiming unemployment.

“The longer people are out of work, the harder it is to get back in.

“In the last year alone we have helped 1,300 into work, and that is a good figure.

“There is a perception that people don’t want to work and are quite happy to claim benefits, and while there are cases like that in every town, it’s unfair that Hartlepool has that image.

“The vast majority of people who come in here want to find a job, and we take a great deal of satisfaction when we help them back into employment.

“It is clear there are issues with unemployment in Hartlepool for a variety of reasons.

“The town lost a lot of industry, and maybe there wasn’t as much investment and growth as there was in other areas.

“But there has been a rise in small businesses, we had an initial increase in the retail and services sector, then into call centres.

“There is always a changing picture in Hartlepool, more than I’ve seen elsewhere.”

Chris admits it finding work is “a full-time job” but says help is always at hand from a dedicated team of advisers at the Hartlepool base in Wesley Square.

She added: “The way people are looking for work has changed, it is very digital orientated now.

“Perhaps that is why youth unemployment figures are falling, as people are familiar with websites and using their smart phones or tablets to search for work.

“We have those facilities within the job centres where people can come and log on, and if anyone is not familiar with the technology then there is always someone on hand to help them upload CVs or fill in an online application.

“Each individual is different, there isn’t a fixed description of a jobseeker.

“Some people we see weekly, others will come in for regular one-to-ones, while some are happy with a regular email.

“We work closely with other agencies such as the local authority and employers in the town, and do all we can to give people the support we can to get them back into work.”

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics shows that there were 3,045 people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) in June, which is equivalent to 5.2 per cent of the population of the town.

The figure includes 2,004 men and 1,041 women out of work.

The figures for Easington constituency also showed a more positive picture with 1,951 people out of work – 3.7 per cent of all residents.

The Stockton North constituency, which takes in Billingham and Wolviston, recorded figures of 2,869 while Sedgefield has 1,484 unemployed people.

l For help on getting back into work, visit www.gov.uk and follow the DWP links.