Trade union campaigners are calling on the Government to open a second Jobcentre in Waltham Forest as the borough faces a “jobs armageddon”.

In October, the council’s cabinet heard nearly one in 10 working-age residents in the borough is now out of work due to the impact of Covid.

The number of residents claiming unemployment benefits rose from less than 8,000 in February to close to 18,000 in just eight months.

Local unions have organised a “Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights” campaign, offering advice and support to those claiming benefits, many for the first time.

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The local branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Jobcentre staff, is also calling on the Government to open a second branch in the south of the borough.

The Leytonstone Jobcentre closed two years ago, meaning the branch opposite the town hall supports the entire borough.

PCS member Tom Taylor said: ”Two years ago, campaigners warned that the closure of the Leytonstone office would lead to overcrowding in Walthamstow.

“Despite this, there have also been proposals to increase the number of face-to-face interviews at a time of high infection rates from the second Covid wave.

“This would pose an unnecessary risk both to staff and the public.”

Read more: Waltham Forest jobs is council's top priority post-Covid

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said they were “exploring potential options” to expand their workspace in light of Covid and growing need.

They said: “The DWP is on track to double the number of Work Coaches in Jobcentres by the end of March 2021, to help support more people back into work as a result of this pandemic.

“To do this, and ensure Jobcentres and offices remain Covid secure, we need to expand our workspace.

"We are therefore exploring potential options in line with our Work Coach recruitment vacancies.”

More information about Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights can be found here.

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