Bolton has had one of the largest rises in the proportion of benefits claimants, figures released earlier this month show.

According to the figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, the number of people claiming Universal Credit or Job Seekers’ Allowance in Bolton as of February 2024 is up to 10,410 – a rise of 510 compared to last year.

This means 5.7 per cent of people in the borough now claim benefits – 0.3 percentage points higher than at the same point last year.

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Bolton has had the joint-second highest proportional rise out of Greater Manchester boroughs, tied with Oldham.

Only Manchester beats the two boroughs, with a 0.5 percentage point rise in the proportion of residents claiming benefits.

‘Sobering statistics’ as MP blames NHS waiting lists

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi has called for action to tackle NHS waiting lists, which she believes will allow more people to get into work.

The Bolton News: Yasmin Qureshi pointed to NHS waiting listsYasmin Qureshi pointed to NHS waiting lists

Ms Qureshi said: “These sobering statistics show the desperate need for a plan to turn the economy around.

“There are many underlying factors as to why the number of benefit claimants may increase but it shows there is clear stress in our labour market.

“One of the key factors in people being out of work is ill health, something that we need to discuss more.

“With NHS waiting lists for routine operations out of control, it is no wonder that people out of work due to sickness or on sick leave has skyrocketed.

“Fixing the NHS waiting list crisis is not only imperative for people’s health but also for our economy.

“Couple this with a sluggish wider economy and it is clear why we end up with these figures here in Bolton and across Greater Manchester.”

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As of January, approximately 6.3 million individual patients were waiting for treatment in England, for around 7.5 million cases, according to BMA analysis.

This was down from around 6.5 million patients in September 2023 for 7.8 million cases. Prior to the pandemic, there were around 4.4 million cases on the NHS waiting list; the waiting list is not expected to recover for years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Tens of thousands of patients in Bolton are waiting for treatment.

Last week, researchers at the Resolution Foundation thinktank said a near-record 2.7 million working-age adults in Britain are too sick to work, with increases concentrated among the youngest and oldest workers.

Earlier this month, health secretary Victoria Atkins said the government’s commitment to tackling NHS waiting times was ‘unwavering’ – with wait lists dropping for the ‘fourth month in a row’, as of the latest figures, which show the situation in January 2024.

She added: “We are determined to continue improving experiences for patients and making access to care faster, simpler and fairer. 

“We are making progress in reducing A&E waiting times, including adding an extra 5,000 permanent staffed beds this winter to increase capacity and help patients be seen as quickly as possible.”

Bolton Council weighs in

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “In line with other areas in Greater Manchester, Bolton has seen an increase in the number of claimants.

“Earlier this year, we consulted on our Economic Growth and Resilience Plan which was drafted with partners including the Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub.

“It includes measures to support residents into work, boost wages, and match skills training to the needs of local employers.

“It also sets out our plans to build on Bolton’s existing strengths in manufacturing and logistics, while creating new jobs in the digital and health innovation sectors.

“The Workshop, the council-run employment and skills service, supported by DWP can also offer support to Bolton residents looking for work.”

The Department for Work and Pensions was contacted for comment.

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