MP says claimant figures reflect need for Island recovery plan

Latest figures showing the extent of furloughing and unemployment on the Isle of Wight as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak highlight the need for a comprehensive and effective recovery plan, MP Bob Seely has said.

Up to 31st May 2020, 15,400 Island jobs had been furloughed through the Government’s Job Retention Scheme – equivalent to around 19% of the population aged 16-64 but marginally lower that the UK figure of 21%.

A further 6,100 claims were made to the Self Employment Income Support scheme, equivalent to 71% of the potentially eligible population and in line with the UK take-up rate.

The number claiming unemployment-related benefits was 5,580 in May 2020 – equivalent to 7.0% of the population aged 16-64 compared with the equivalent UK claimant rate of 6.4 per cent. This is 855 higher than in April 2020 and 3,000 higher than March 2020, before the UK lockdown began.

While some of the increase in the claimant count will be due to Islanders who have become unemployed, some will also be due to employed people who have become eligible for Universal Credit as part of the government response.

Bob said the latest data highlighted both the necessity of the Government’s furlough scheme.

“As the Chancellor has said, the Government’s economic package in response to the covid-19 outbreak is one of the most comprehensive anywhere in the world.”

Bob said he did however recognise the economic and social challenges ahead.

“Whilst remembering the devastating effects of Covid-19 to some families on the Island, we must also recognise the other impacts of this virus. Despite the plethora of financial support packages coming from the Government, Covid-19 has also cost thousands their jobs.

“We need to consider the needs of those now facing hardship and, with consideration to the rate of infection, look at how we can get our Island’s economy moving and get people back into work.

“I will work with the IW Council and others to look at how we can kick start the Island and support those in desperate need.”

Bob said he was continuing to discuss the local effects of Covid-19 with local business and community leaders on the Island, as well as lobbying Government for further support.