There were 49,420 people in the city on UC last month. That’s roughly double the number of claimants then at the beginning of the pandemic.
It’s also a sharp increase on the last figure reported of 16,604 people at the end of September.
Sheffield Council officer Cat Arnold says in a report: “Whilst there are many issues with UC, if it had not been in place at the beginning of the pandemic, the situation is likely to have been far worse as the system would not have been able to cope with the massive rise in claims and workload.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that the new claimants are both people already on benefits whose circumstances changed due to lockdown, and those who were new to the welfare system who lost their job or reduced their hours.
“The extremely rapid increase in claims meant that waiting times to apply for UC was very long in March and April 2020. People had to wait for money, increasing the already huge difficulties of lockdown.”
Waiting times reduced as the Department of Work and Pensions redeployed staff and recruited new staff to meet the increased workload.
UC was increased by £20 a week at the beginning of the pandemic and this uplift will continue for another six months but officers have warned some households face a “financial cliff edge” next winter.
The report says there’s uncertainty about the number of claims likely to be made over the coming months and it’s possible that, as furlough is phased out, more people lose their jobs and therefore need to apply.