Camden Town Hall.

People working with those hit hard by the economic costs of the pandemic in Camden are bracing themselves for the end of the furlough scheme.

The government-funded job retention scheme ends on 30 September, and Camden’s head of customer services Kate Robertson said it is uncharted territority.

She said the council does not have data on the numbers of people currently on furlough, making it “impossible” to target them with help.

According to the latest government figures, 32,200 people in Camden have been on furlough at some point since the scheme began.

Kensigton and Chelsea has the lowest number of claims in London, with 18,500 people on furlough over the period of the pandemic, whilst Newham had the highest with 80,800 people.

The £20 Universal Credit uplift brought in because of the hardships caused by Covid is also due to end, leading to concerns about how people will cope.

Currently, single people over the age of 25 get £409.89 a month, but this will drop to £324.84 in October.

The council is lobbying for retention of the extra payment.

Robertson said: “I think we have to be preparing for the worst.”

Since the pandemic began, the council has taken more than 20,000 calls to the Covid hotline it set up for residents.

Robertson told the resources and corporate performance scrutiny committee (31 August) that Covid-fuelled job losses are “a key driver behind the increasing need for help with finances, food and debt over the past year”.

Cllr Ranjit Singh (Lab, Cantelowes) said it brought to mind scenes from the film I, Daniel Blake.

He said: “Going to a food bank is a reality for far too many families in Camden. We are facing this perfect storm presently with the ending of the £20 uplift, the end of furlough and, as we head into winter, it is really dire for many families.”

Robertson said the council is working with community groups and voluntary organisations to help struggling residents.

It is also targeting people who are vulnerable, and working with Job Centre Plus.

She added: “One of the fundamental problems with Universal Credit is fundamentally whether it provides enough of a safety net for anyone to live sustainably.”

She said those struggling the most on the benefit tend to be single people or adults with grown-up children who are still living at home.

“You could argue that in places like London it is pretty much impossible to survive and live a sustainable and happy and healthy life on that.”

Camden saw a 183 per cent increase in people claiming Universal Credit between April 2020 and April 2021.

Roberston said “the most significant increase” was a doubling in the number of claims between March and May 2020 when 16,099 were on the benefit, including people in work.

In June this year there were more unemployed men than women, and 57 per cent of people out of work were aged 25 to 49.

Robertson said: “There is no data available on ethnicity, however it is believed that Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities are more likely to be impacted.”

The council offers a 100 per cent council tax discount to those in need. Some other London boroughs including Kensington and Chelsea also offer this.

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