Doomed to the dole – Hartlepool has highest long-term jobless in region

ON BENEFITS: Hartlepool has a problem with long-term claimers
ON BENEFITS: Hartlepool has a problem with long-term claimers

HARTLEPOOL has the highest proportion of long-term jobless benefit claimants in the North-East.

The latest Government figures reveal there are people in the town who have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than five years.

The number of people languishing on the jobs queue for long periods has risen over the last year as Hartlepool has the highest proportion in the region of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than 12 months.

Overall, the number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen, from 4,695 claimants in December 2012 to 3,937 last December, but the level of long-term joblessness is rising.

Town MP Iain Wright said the Government needs to target long-term unemployed by providing training and education, while Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher says more needs to be done in the community to match-up skills with the jobs available, including in retail, finance and engineering.

Figures show 1,600 people have been on the benefit for more than a year, which is 40.7 per cent of all claimants. Also more than a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance in Hartlepool have been claiming the benefit for more than two years.

The number of people claiming for more than two years has risen from 500 in November 2012 to 955 last month.

There has also been a rise in people claiming for between two years and three years, up from 395 to 580.

There was 300 people who have been claiming for between three and four years, 50 between four and five years and 25 who have been claiming for more than five years.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “If you have been out of the job market that long, your skills erode and your abilities diminish.

“What we need is some investment from the start to make sure people are able to get into work, whether it is training or additional qualifications. That investment repays itself many times over in reduced benefits, increased tax receipts and these people are spending money in the shops.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “There has been a shift in the type of work that is out there, we have had cuts in public sector jobs and there has been a shift where they are looking for engineers and HGV drivers. It is whether or not people who have been unemployed have the skill-set of the jobs available.

“We have jobs in retail and finance in Hartlepool so it is really trying to get a mix of people with the right skills.

“Young people are being targeted, but with older people it is not being addressed.

“The answer is that we need to have a look at more vocational qualifications and do more out in the community to do with adult education.”

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said by September last year 208,000 people nationally had found jobs, which normally last more than six months, through the Government’s flagship Work Programme aimed at targeting long-term unemployment.

He added: “We’re seeing record numbers of people now in employment and we are determined to do everything we can to support those people who are hardest to help into work. That is what the Work Programme is designed to do. It’s a key part of the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work, while also being a good deal for the taxpayer.”