Nearly half a million Brits claim benefits in a week as coronavirus sends economy into meltdown

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NEARLY half a million desperate Brits signed up to benefits in just over a week as coronavirus sent the economy into meltdown.

The flood of 470,000 people forced on to the dole could spiral as the deadly pandemic gets worse.

There were more staff than commuters at London’s Waterloo station today as coronavirus sent the economy into meltdown

The lockdown meant there were no visitors to Manchester's usually bustling St Ann's Square

The lockdown meant there were no visitors to Manchester’s usually bustling St Ann’s Square

Applicants face online queues of more than 144,000 people while attempting to claim for Universal Credit — the welfare payment which takes in jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support.

Many have said registering is confusing, and that they were timed out — putting them to the back of line again.

The sudden surge of claimants heaps enormous pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak who will tomorrow finally announce his bailout scheme for the self-employed.

Boris Johnson today promised the country will “put our arms around every worker” to help them during the crisis.

He told PMQs: “As a society and a country we are doing a quite extraordinary thing.

‘UNPRECEDENTED STEP’

“For the first time in our history, to get through this crisis, we are putting our arms as a country around every single worker, every single employee in this country.

“It is a quite unprecedented step.”

The PM said he was aware of “concerns about the self-employed” and said the Chancellor will be announcing a support package shortly.

Mr Sunak last week launched an all-out bid to save millions of jobs by promising to pay 80 per cent of the wages of staff kept on the books.

The PM hinted that tomorrow’s bailout for Britain’s five million self-employed will be on a similar scale, saying he wants “parity” of support.

A lone jogger crosses London's Millennium Bridge in front of St Paul's Cathedral

A lone jogger crosses London’s Millennium Bridge in front of St Paul’s Cathedral

Tourists have deserted the shops of picturesque Bath in Somerset as the lockdown bites

Tourists have deserted the shops of picturesque Bath in Somerset as the lockdown bites

The M4s junction 5 would usually be rammed with traffic heading to Heathrow

The M4’s junction 5 would usually be rammed with traffic heading to Heathrow

There were deserted roads and pavements in Essex’s major city, Chelmsford

There were deserted roads and pavements in Essex’s major city, Chelmsford

The Resolution Foundation think-tank has warned that some 1.7million self-employed have already been left out of pocket by the crisis.

As bustling high streets become ghost towns, many former workers have been forced onto benefits for the first time.

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey today told MPs the welfare system is facing “unprecedented numbers” signing up.

She admitted the system is “facing challenges” but said it is crucial everyone goes through the strict ID checking process, which has been blamed for the extraordinary queues.

Ms Coffey told the Work and Pensions Select Committee: “We don’t want robots to get money which is why we are maintaining verification.”

The department plans to redeploy 10,000 back-office staff to the frontline as it scrambles to try to get a grip on the huge backlog.

Peter Schofield, the department’s permanent secretary, said: “We know our responsibility — we want to get money to those who are entitled to it.

“My intention is everyone gets paid what they are due in the time required.”

He also hinted that benefit sanctions will be waived during the crisis as the entire department’s manpower is focused on getting cash to claimants as quickly as possible.

But Labour took the opportunity to blast the Government over the growing chaos.

The surge of benefits claimants heaps pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak who will tomorrow announce his bailout scheme for the self-employed

The surge of benefits claimants heaps pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak who will tomorrow announce his bailout scheme for the self-employed

Boris Johnson today promised the country will “put our arms around every worker” to help them during the crisis

Boris Johnson today promised the country will ‘put our arms around every worker’ to help them during the crisis

Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Unprecedented numbers of working people are having to access the social security system for the very first time because of the health emergency.

“Not only is there chaos as they seek to secure support, they will be shocked at the low level of payments.”

The Government last week announced an extra £7billion is being pumped into welfare to “strengthen the safety net”.

 

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