WORKERS in one of Lancashire’s most affluent boroughs have been hit the hardest financially since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of people relying on hand-outs from the government in the Ribble Valley has almost doubled over the last four weeks from just 721 registered claimants in March to 1,324 in April.

The 83 per cent increase has prompted the countryside borough’s MP to urge the Prime Minister to get people back working as soon as possible.

Nigel Evans said: “The Chancellor and the Prime Minister need to see how quickly they can get people back into the workplace. The longer this takes, the more people will be claiming benefits.

“The more people claiming benefits, the more financial hardship is experienced all round.

“The sad thing is, the longer that lockdown is occurring, the higher the chances are of many more people losing their jobs.

“That spells out to me the urgency there needs to be around getting people back to work, as safely and practicably as possible.”

The second largest rise has been experienced at the job centre in Rawtenstall, with a 56 per cent increase in their Universal Credit caseload, with claims rising from 3,017 to 4,729.

In Nelson, the number jumped from 4,371 to 6,090, a 39 per cent climb.

More people are claiming benefits in Blackburn with Darwen than any other borough in East Lancashire with the number of claimants rising by 28 per cent from 11,645 to 15,002 over the same period.

The smallest increase over the last four weeks was experienced in Burnley where the job centre has seen a 23 per cent increase in UC claims.

In the Accrington centre cases are up by 33 per cent from 5,748 to 7,694.

Universal Credit is available to those working in low income jobs or those who are out of work.

It covers former benefit categories such as income support, job seeker’s allowance, the child tax benefit and housing credit, all in one assessment-based payment.

Since the virus outbreak a new furlough system, which is allowing companies to retain workers by relying on the government to help pay wages while businesses can’t operate, has been introduced.

Mr Evans added: “Without the scheme I can only imagine what would have happened economically. The furlough scheme has really proven its worth.”

Will Quince, minister for welfare delivery, said: “Jobcentre staff have done a fantastic job of processing record numbers of Universal Credit claims.

“We’ve injected £6.5bn into the welfare system to help during the pandemic, increased the Universal Credit standard allowance by more than £1,000 a year, raised the amount you can get to help with your rent, and implemented a call back system so people aren’t waiting on the phone lines unnecessarily."