Jobless oil and gas workers urged to claim financial aid

Aberdeen harbour

Thousands of unemployed people in the north-east have been urged to overcome their reluctance to accept handouts and sign on for the dole.

An estimated 50,000 people have suffered from job cuts in the north-east since the price of oil started falling – but official figures on out-of-work benefits claimants has risen only by a few thousand in the same time.

Gordon McGuinness, depute director of industry and enterprise at Skills Development Scotland (SDS) said it was a “conundrum” for the agency as it puts efforts in place – including today’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace) event in Aberdeen – to help redundant workers.

Barry O’Neill, investment director for financial advice specialist Carbon Financial said many are reluctant to seek help as they may have a cash cushion as a result of winding up their business and taking time to decide what to do next.

“There may be something in the north-east psyche about the work ethic and not wanting to be reliant on someone else,” he said.

“Maybe that is part and parcel why people aren’t inclined to collect state benefits even if they are potentially eligible.”

Jake Molloy, organiser for the RMT union, urged people to register as unemployed with Jobcentres – even if their savings mean they may not be eligible for financial support.

He said: “We always urge people to register as unemployed if only for the sake of keeping their pension contributions right when they get to retirement age.”

He said those facing joblessness represented a “mix” – those who were self-employed and “trying to keep themselves ticking over as a business”, others who have found other jobs, and those that had “rainy day” savings or a redundancy payment after several years of work.

“This reluctance – I don’t know if it is pride – they don’t want to be drawing down on state funds when they could be sitting on a pocket of money,” he said.

The Press and Journal estimates that a family of four with one out-of-work breadwinner who made £78,000 a year and with £200,000 outstanding on a mortgage could receive a benefits package up to £410.35 a month. This includes jobseeker’s allowance, mortgage interest support, council tax reduction and child benefit.

Mr McGuinness said: “I’d have expected the registers to show more unemployed across the two local authorities in the north-east.

“It is still about 1,800 to 2,000 in the last three years. That in itself is a real challenge – but it doesn’t explain estimated numbers like 30,000 or 64,000 or 120,000 across the UK.

“The sort of feedback we get is they think it is not worth their while registering unemployed because the money is a pittance.”