A GROWING number of people in East Renfrewshire are claiming Universal Credit after losing their jobs or being furloughed during the Covid pandemic.

Latest government figures show there were 4,557 claimants in the local authority area in February – up by almost 2%.

And the virus crisis is affecting residents in all parts of East Renfrewshire, including the more affluent areas.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said many of the new claimants are people on high incomes who have seen their earnings slashed over the past 12 months.

“Not all of the increase in East Renfrewshire is down to people losing their jobs,” added a DWP spokesman. “The statistics show all people claiming Universal Credit and not just those who are unemployed.

“People can apply for the benefit if they are still in work but their income has fallen or if they are unable to work.”

East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald said the rising number of Universal Credit claimants in the local area is a result of a lack of support from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for those who are self-employed or on zero-hour contracts.

She added: “The Chancellor needs to reflect on how such decisions impact on families.”

Across Scotland as a whole, the number of people on Universal Credit jumped by 2.3% to 488,553.

Will Quince, Minister for Welfare Delivery, said: “This government continues to support people in need through Universal Credit.

“It is a key pillar of our response as we continue to move out of lockdown and will remain as a vital safety net.”

Around 100,000 Scots are thought to have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

A £20 increase in Universal Credit uplift has been extended until the end of September.

The UK Government’s furlough scheme will also continue until the end of September, paying up to 80% of wages.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “These figures show the scale of the challenge we face to rebuild our economy.

“We have committed to provide the Scottish Government with an additional £14billion since the start of the pandemic.”