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Stone urges UK Government to 'do more' as benefit claims in north Highlands increase


By Caroline McMorran

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Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a significant increase in the number of people in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency claiming benefits.

Jamie Stone is the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Jamie Stone is the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

The figures relate to April 2020 and show that claimants made up 5.7 per cent of the population aged 16-64 in the area, whereas the UK national average in 5.1 per cent.

According to the new figures, claimants increased by 730 between March and April this year.

The number of young claimants aged between 18 and 24 rose by 135 from 245 in March to 380 in April.

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone said the Government had to do more to help those in need.

He singled out the five-week wait between applying for and receiving a Universal Credit payment as the reason many families were pushed into poverty.

Mr Stone said: “I have constituents who are relying on food banks and friends to get by. Those five weeks that people have to wait before they see get their universal credit payment is agony. It quite literally pushes people into poverty.

“When I raised the issue in the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, told me that ‘there are some who will fall through the cracks’, as if this was something I should just accept. I refuse to accept that my constituents cannot be helped. There is so much more the Government must do. They are refusing to help small limited companies, refusing to extend income support for self-employed workers, and refusing to end the five-week wait for Universal Credit. They don’t have to do this - they choose to.”

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