THERE have been at least 122,160 Universal Credit claims in Wales since March 1, new figures given to the Welsh Affairs Committee have revealed.

The data, collected between March 1 and May 12, was submitted by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey MP as part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Welsh Economy and coronavirus.

At the peak of the crisis, the Department of Work and Pensions received more than 6,000 new claims per day as households bore the effects of the lockdown.

Stephen Crabb MP, the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee said: “These figures are deeply troubling. They reveal tens of thousands of people in Wales falling into financial hardship as the economic impact of the lockdown bites.

No one wants to see a return to the days when Wales was blighted by high levels of unemployment. So there is a huge challenge for all levels of government if we are to avoid long-term deep scarring of the Welsh economy.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey said: “Universal Credit has stood up to the challenge during this unprecedented time.

“Our dedicated staff have been working flat out to process claims and make sure people are paid on time – they are some of the hidden heroes of this emergency.

“I know this is a difficult time for many and that’s why across the UK we’ve injected £6.5 billion of extra support into the welfare system, including an increase to the standard rate of Universal Credit of £20 per week.”

Geraint Williams, Service Leader for Jobcentre Plus in South East Wales, added: “We’ve changed the way we operate in many ways as a result of this lockdown – jobcentres are closed except for the most vulnerable cases, we’re not seeing people face-to-face, and we’re now calling people back to get a better idea of any extra support they need so we can make sure they get it.

“Just because someone is claiming Universal Credit doesn’t mean they are necessarily out of work completely – many people will be claiming UC to top up their income. And it’s encouraging to see some sectors are busier than normal – supermarkets are a good example of where we are now promoting critical job vacancies."