THE number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Dunfermline and West Fife constituency in the month of April has increased by 60% compared to this time last year, according to figures from the House of Commons Library.

These reveal how many people in the constituency, which includes Crossgates, Hill of Beath and the Moss-side part of Cowdenbeath, are claiming out of work benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.

The latest figures show 3,525 claimants between the ages of 16-64, 5.5% of the population, marginally higher than the claimant count in the UK as a whole of 5.1%. Compared to April 2019, there has been an increase of 1,365 and an increase of 1,320 since March 2020.

The number of people in the area between 18-24 years old claiming out-of-work benefits has also increased by 200 since March.

Commenting on the figures, SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, Douglas Chapman said: “These numbers are concerning, but are a symptom of the difficult times we are living in during the coronavirus pandemic, which is pushing people into unchartered territory.

“This is also a result of many people falling through the cracks of the UK Government’s business and self-employed support schemes and is forcing people to apply for Universal Credit.

“The figures in Dunfermline and West Fife are not as high as other areas in Fife, but that is hardly compensation for those trying to keep their family, house and home together every day of the week during this crisis".

He added: “The impact this is having on young people is also highlighted, who were already struggling to find work, especially at this time of year when even part-time tourist related jobs would have been available, but that job market has simply dried up.

“This is causing people a lot of stress, but it doesn’t need to be like this, the UK Government could have introduced a Universal Basic Income to make sure no one is left behind by the coronavirus pandemic and suffers as a result of something they had no control over.

“It is not too late for the UK Government to introduce a Universal Basic Income which would make sure everyone has a guaranteed income stream during this time.

“The scheme has just been introduced in Spain and it is time for Westminster to follow suit.”