Coronavirus: DWP looking to recruit 5,000 benefits claimants to handle surge in Universal Credit claims
Universal Credit claims have rised to 1.4m
Thousands of benefit claimants could be recruited by the Government to help deal with a surge in Universal Credit claims as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, it has emerged.
Universal Credit director general Neil Couling said the "unprecedented response" was required to handle the 1.4m new claims made as a result of the financial impact of the pandemic.
More than 10,000 staff have already been drafted in from shuttered job centres to handle the surge, with a further 10,000 being moved from other government departments.
But in a briefing with journalists, Mr Couling said at least 5,000 benefit claimaints could also be recruited temporarily to tackle the increased caseload.
"We are recruiting now," he said. "Job centres are looking out for claimants they think will have the skills necessary to get trained.
"And the Chancellor said the department would have the resources it needs to deal with this challenge, which is incredibly comforting."
He added: "So we have got plans in place to recruit about 5,000 at the moment, but I am sure we will recruit more.
"We will basically scale this system for what it has got to face. It is the safety net, it's got to be able to take the number of claims that present to it and we will make sure that happens."
It comes after Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said she was "confident" the system could handle the increase despite the rate of new cases still running at two to three times its normal level.
She added: "I'm confident that people will start to get their money next week, and also, anyone who has asked for an advance has been able to get it in the last few weeks as well."
But Mr Couling insisted more staff could be found from across Whitehall if lockdown measures continued to impact the job market.
"The first tranche of staff we've had is from the passport office," he added. "What we have been doing is going around our colleagues in government and looking at areas of busisness which because of the pandemic have turned down...
"We are also looking at other bits of government where activities where people in normal times would be asking for support are not now."
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