Commenting on figures released by the Department for Work & Pensions on the number of former steelworkers claiming jobseekers allowance, Labour MP for Redcar Anna Turley said: “These figures only show a fraction of the tragedy caused by the closure of SSI”.
According to the DWP, between October 2015 and January 2016, 1,940 former SSI employees and former supply chain employees made a claim for JSA.
Over 400 former SSI employees had not claimed JSA.
The figures also show that in the run up to the Christmas, 2,988 people received help and advice from the SSI Support Hub.
Commenting on the figures, Anna said:
“These figures only show a fraction of the tragedy caused by the closure of SSI. They only show those who have sought help, not everyone affected. We know that over 3000 people lost their jobs immediately, including supply chain businesses, and the knock on effect on other small enterprises such as childminders and decorators is even harder to quantify. Add to this the further redundancies from Boulby Potash and Air Products and you can see the scale of crisis on Teesside, which makes a mockery of the government's northern powerhouse agenda.
It is no surprise to me that despite the good partnership work of local agencies, colleges and the taskforce, the numbers out of work are still so high. Many are still waiting for training courses or are applying for jobs that are hugely oversubscribed. Nothing will replace the role of the steelworks as the bedrock of our local economy and it is going to take a long time for our economy, and all these broken lives, to recover.”
On Tuesday evening (19th January) Anna secured a Commons debate on the support available to steelworkers after the closure and what lessons could be learnt.
In the debate, Anna criticised barriers in Whitehall and the reductions in further education spending over recent years:
“It took hard work from the chair of the local taskforce to convince risk-averse Whitehall mandarins that support for apprentices and the use of the funding to incentivise recruitment did not constitute state aid.”
“Unfortunately, there have also been widespread delays in accessing training, as some of the agencies involved struggled to deal with the massively increased demand. Further education funding has been reduced by 14% in the past five years. Although the £3 million available to local Teesside colleges for courses is excellent, the challenges in upscaling rapidly to cope with the levels of demand have led to delays for those accessing courses.”
She also highlighted negative feedback on the experience of dealing with the Jobcentre:
“Unfortunately, despite the good work done by many jobcentre staff, numerous constituents have contacted me to raise the dehumanising treatment they have received in jobcentres.
“The issues about sanctions must be addressed. Sanctions should not be used as a mechanism to force claimants to apply for jobs that are not relevant in this instance; such jobs should be a last resort.”
Link to the Commons debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160119/debtext/160119-0004.htm#16011954000002