As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic there has been encouraging news for Dover and Deal’s employment figures. The year 2021 saw Dover experience considerably higher employment growth rates than the national position. At 2%, employment growth between October 2020 and December 2021 greatly exceeded the national rate of 0.26% over the same period. In addition, wages also increased significantly, with gross weekly pay increasing by over 26% since 2017. This is more than double the national average, which was 11% over that period. Dover now has a higher gross weekly pay than the national average. Unemployment benefit claimants are also down – with more than 1200 fewer unemployment benefit claimants during the last year. Across a range of different metrics, the employment and pay position for Dover and Deal has been trending in the right direction with more people in work and higher wages.
There has been direct support and assistance from Government to help achieve this strong rebound. There is ongoing ‘Way to Work’ campaign from the Department of Work and Pensions where jobcentres actively support and engage with potential employers. Across Kent the campaign has managed to help over 10,000 people into work since the beginning of July.
Additionally, the Government’s successful Kickstart Scheme has seen over 4,000 Kickstart work placements within Kent. The Kickstart scheme works by providing paid work experience which can then lead to offers of apprenticeships and employment. This has given young people in our area the practical experience that we know is essential in securing sustainable employment. Many young people have done so well on their 6-month placement in the kickstart scheme that the employer has offered them a job. On Friday, I was at the Dover Sunrise Cafe where I heard how successful the Kickstart programme has been in turning some of their Kickstarters into job offers. I was so pleased about that, and about other examples from employers across our area of how well the scheme has worked.
In addition, to work coaches at the job centres, they have been playing a role with debt referral to the Money Advice Network. This is an essential scheme for people going through hardships where finances have ended up in a bit of a muddle.
Last week‘s National Insurance Tax cut will save people up to £330 per year. In the South-East, around two-thirds of people paying National Insurance should now be better off. But there is more to do and in Parliament last week I met with the national Citizens Advice team who talked about policy support that they would like to see put in place during the cost of living crisis. So it was good to catch up with Jan from our Dover citizens advice centre at the weekend too. We are extremely lucky locally to have a number of trained and committed volunteers. To all our volunteers, thank you for everything you do.