World News

UK new welfare benefit claims soar to 1.4 million, minister says

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has received about 1.4 million new benefit claims for welfare payments – about seven times the normal level – since Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to stay at home a month ago as the coronavirus outbreak accelerated.

“It’s now up to about 1.4 million,” British Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said.

“We are capable of processing and managing those claims.”

Payments under Britain’s Universal Credit welfare system include support for people on low incomes working fewer hours as well as people who lose their jobs.

Analysts say Britain is heading for its sharpest economic slump in a century. The government has pledged it will provide 80% of the pay of workers who are temporarily laid off and has raised welfare payments for those out of work.

The next publication of official British labour market data – which will include figures for the number of people seeking jobless benefits in March – is due on April 21.

There are normally around 100,000 applicants for Universal Credit per two-week period.

Last week, the government put the number of people making claims since March 16 at 1.2 million.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by William Schomberg)