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Suffolk County Council told county faces 20,000 more redundancies due to coronavirus pandemic



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Suffolk is facing around 20,000 more people being made redundant as a result of Covid-19, an authority has warned – with increased demand expected on vital support services.

Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday heard that latest estimates were predicting 20,000 fresh redundancies in the county, while a survey of businesses locally found one in four respondents were expecting to reduce their workforce to stay afloat.

The end of the furlough scheme at the end of the month – which is currently supporting around 104,000 people in the county – coupled with the lifting of restrictions on evictions of renting tenants has meant an increase in demand on foodbanks, financial advice and state benefits is anticipated.

Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday heard that latest estimates were predicting 20,000 fresh redundancies in the county
Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday heard that latest estimates were predicting 20,000 fresh redundancies in the county

Suffolk has already reported a 76% increase in Universal Credit claimants since lockdown began in March, and more than doubled from the 25,867 claimants a year ago with 55,563 in August 2020.

Chrissie Geeson, from the Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board and head of localities and partnerships at Suffolk County Council, said: “We are trying to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

“Things may not be as bleak as we think they could be, and let’s hope that is the case, but I think the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders commitment for the additional Hardship Fund funding [of £800,000] underlines the fact that we are taking things seriously and we think there is going to be more significant fallout from Covid and the economic downturn.”

She added: “There is no magic bullet that we can say will fix it but it is top of our minds and it’s at the front of all the conversations we are having.

“If we look at the recovery co-ordination group from top to bottom it’s the one thing we are trying our hardest to come up with mitigations for.”

Nicky Wilshere, chief officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said the service had seen an increase in middle-aged men coming to them seeking support having lost their jobs, as well as those facing redundancy or uncertainty about the end of the furlough measures.

She added: “The demand on outgoings have greatly increased.

“The only part of the budget when you have paid for rent and other bills you have any flexibility with is the food budget.

“That then creates this situation with food poverty and the impact particularly on children and families.”

Maureen Reynel, founder of the Families in Need (FIND) Foodbank in Ipswich, said demand had increased in lockdown but has stabilised, however foodbanks are expecting an increase this autumn and winter when furlough ends and the Christmas build-up begins.

According to Community Action Suffolk, the number of foodbanks in Suffolk has increased from 21 prior to Covid-19 to around 50 now – many of which are smaller and pop-up foodbanks organised by parish councils, churches and community groups.

Suffolk County Council data meanwhile found a 238% increase in food handed out through foodbanks since March, while demand for Free School Meals has also increased by more than 15% since March.

The county council is working to establish a food poverty action plan to support low income families below the breadline, with a food and hardship officer starting work in the county next week.

Elsewhere, a new phone line has been launched for those facing worries about unemployment, finances, housing or work.

The helpline is 0800 068 3131 and is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk