More than 1,000 extra young people in Bedford are claiming Universal Credit than before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures reveal.
The Intergenerational Foundation charity says younger people will be left to pay the bill for protecting older generations for decades to come after suffering a “massive blow” to their income and job prospects.
Department for Work and Pensions statistics show 2,490 people aged 16-24 in Bedford were on Universal Credit as of August 13.
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This was 1,173 more than the 1,317 who were claiming the benefit in early March, before the country went into lockdown, bringing large parts of the economy to a halt.
The figures include people in work and on a low income or those not working because of health or caring commitments, alongside those who are unemployed and searching for a job.
Bedford’s young people joined the ranks of 76,198 others in the age group across the East of England who were seeking support in August, up from 37,886 in March.
Across Great Britain, the figure almost doubled to 938,000 over the first five months of the Covid-19 crisis, with every area seeing an increase in the number of young Universal Credit claimants over the period.
Separate Office for National Statistics figures show rising unemployment has hit young people the hardest, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment across the UK dropping by more than 150,000 in the three months to July.
Ashley Seager, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, said: “These statistics demonstrate the intergenerational unfairness in the Government's approach to Covid.
“Our youngest workers are now starting to suffer a massive blow to their incomes and job prospects.”
He said the Government urgently needs to boost funding for the £2billion Kickstart scheme, which subsidises work placements for young people facing long-term unemployment, while encouraging older people to shield and re-opening the economy as quickly as possible.
The ONS figures show the overall unemployment rate increased to 4.1 per cent in the three months to July – the highest in nearly two years, with the number of those without a job rising by 62,000.
Around 695,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March.
But there were an estimated 434,000 vacancies in the three months to August, up 30 per cent from a record low between April and June, although this was still well below pre-virus levels.
Minister for employment Mims Davies said: “We recognise that the pandemic has been difficult for many people who are worried about their incomes and that’s why our £30billion plan for jobs is aimed at protecting, supporting and creating jobs and it’s welcome news that there is some recovery in vacancies.”