Benefit claims on rise

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THE levels of benefit claims among young adults in Breckland is at its highest in six years, according to new figures.

The latest numbers from the Department for Employment and Learning show the Norfolk district is above the national average of 8.3 per cent of 18-24 year olds making a claim for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).

With 8.7 per cent of the age bracket claiming JSA in March, Breckland also outstrips neighbouring districts including Forest Heath at 4.7 per cent and St Edmundsbury and Mid Suffolk at 6.8 per cent.

The increase has seen 835 young adults claiming JSA – an extra 150 compared to the same time last year.

Terry Jermy, Breckland councillor for Thetford and a youth worker, said the figures were worrying but did not tell the full extent of the issue.

“The trend in youth unemployment is very concerning, particularly considering these figures do not include young people aged 16-18 years.

“Cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and a rise in tuition fees have deterred many young people from furthering their education but there are not the jobs available to accommodate them,” he said.

Cllr Jermy added that limited public transport services had an effect on employment, with young people unable to afford cars or access work.

A spokeswoman for Breckland Council said annual trends showed there was always an increase in JSA claimants at the beginning of the year.

“Unemployment among 18-24 year olds is a national issue, however, Breckland Council’s economic development team is working very closely with local businesses, Jobcentre Plus and other partners to increase the number of opportunities available to our residents.

“The imminent growth of Thetford and Attleborough will lead to further opportunities and the dualling of the A11 will contribute to more businesses moving to the area,” she said.

 For a round-up of the area’s figures, see Page 11.