Surge in unemployment putting pressure on service, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
Campaigners are calling on the government to open a second job centre in Waltham Forest as the borough faces a “jobs Armageddon”.
One-in-ten working-age residents in the borough are now out of work, representing nearly a three-fold rise in unemployment since the start of the pandemic – with Waltham Forest recording the fourth-highest rise in unemployment across London.
Campaign group Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights, which offers advice and support to those claiming benefits, is calling for a second job centre to open to cope with the number of new jobless people in the borough. The local branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents job centre staff, is also calling on the government to open a second branch in the south of the borough.
Leytonstone Jobcentre Plus was closed in 2018, leaving just the Walthamstow branch open in the borough. PCS member Tom Taylor said: ”Two years ago, campaigners warned that the closure of the Leytonstone office would lead to overcrowding in Walthamstow.
“Despite this, there have also been proposals to increase the number of face-to-face interviews at a time of high infection rates from the second Covid-19 wave.
“This would pose an unnecessary risk both to staff and the public.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said they were “exploring potential options” to expand their workspace in light of Covid-19 and growing need. They said: “The DWP is on track to double the number of work coaches in job centres by the end of March 2021, to help support more people back into work as a result of this pandemic.
“To do this, and ensure job centres and offices remain Covid secure, we need to expand our workspace.
“We are therefore exploring potential options in line with our work coach recruitment vacancies.”