A City of York Council report into financial inclusion and welfare benefits outturn shows how the cost-of-living crisis has meant thousands are turning to government and council help to make ends meet.
The number of people taking food and fuel vouchers, as well as people in rent arrears, has also dramatically increased.
Pauline Stuchfield the council’s director for customers and communities said: “Whilst we have comparatively low unemployment in the city, we do have a high number of Universal Credit claimants.
“Pre-Covid that [number] stood around 5,500 to 6,000 on average per month.
“It stood at 11,700 at the end of the last financial year, which is still almost double [than] pre-Covid, which tells you there’s a lot of people relying on benefits coming out of the pandemic and into the cost-of-living crisis and that number is continuing to rise.
“So there’s still a significant issue in the city.”
Unemployment in York is just 1.8 per cent, but the number of residents on Universal Credit had risen to 11,755 in April.
The report states that “this is a clear indication of the low wage economy in some sectors which is not taking residents away from reliance on welfare benefits.”
Meanwhile, the York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS) had 1,455 applications for the years 2022/23 and the council was forced to overspend on their YFAS budget by 20 per cent.
However, the report also states that the implementation of these schemes initially reduced demand on YFAS which the council expects to continue into next year.
The budget for YFAS also has two years of additional £50,000 funding following a £50,000 reduction to the 2021/22 budget.
Food and fuel vouchers also cost the council more than £212,163 last year.
Furthermore, from April 2022 to March 2023 council tenancy rent arrears increased by 33.2 per cent, with the figure now at £1,754,821.
Coun Katie Lomas said: “The doubling of Universal Credit payments at a time when we are facing such a cost-of-living crisis is quite shocking.”
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