‘PROGRESS’ is being made to get thousands of benefit claimants back into work after latest figures revealed the first dip in the number of Barnsley residents requiring financial support since February last year.

Post-pandemic figures show just over 15,000 claimed Universal Credit, although 27,043 Barnsley residents were paid last month.

Having climbed month-on-month throughout the last year, March to April saw a slight reduction from 27,095 at its peak.

With new jobs and large developments being created across the borough, it’s hoped claimants will continue to reduce as the post-pandemic recovery steps up.

Barnsley now has the lowest figures of claimants in South Yorkshire, with Sheffield registering 49,132, Doncaster 36,159 and Rotherham 27,522 in April - all three recording an increase on March’s statistics.

The 18 to 24-year-old age bracket is set to have an increased amount of intervention thanks to the government-funded Kickstart initiative, which is for Universal Credit claimants and provides paid six-month work placements.

Latest figures reveal the group’s had a 91 per cent increase in claimants in the last year.

Paul Boyd, from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), told the Chronicle: “Barnsley is better-placed for jobs than other areas in South Yorkshire because of the investment we’re seeing in the town.

“There’s the Glass Works complex in the town centre, a Hermes parcel hub being built in Hoyland and established businesses such as Premier Food, McDonald’s and ASOS actively looking for staff.

“The Glass Works, in particular, is a key draw though as there will be a Cineworld, bowling alley and multiple restaurants opening up this year.

“Certain sectors have flourished and warehouses in Barnsley have continued to perform well, with new jobs being created to cope with demand.

“While Universal Credit claims have been unprecedented this year as a result of the pandemic, this is the first time during that period that numbers have decreased.

“It might be a small reduction, but it’s heading in the right direction.”

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock - who has raised her concerns with Universal Credit in Parliament after - believes too many people continue to fall through the cracks and are being made to wait too long for their first payment.

“More than 8,400 families in my constituency are relying on Universal Credit, a number that’s increased by 20 per cent in the last six months alone,” she added.

“Universal Credit must deliver on its promise to ensure that no-one falls behind.

“I will continue to challenge the government on this issue and ensure that we have a system that works and provides for those who need it most.”