MORE than 300 people have used the council's Ways to Work unemployment scheme since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has gone up by thousands in St Helens compared to the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Office for National Statistics data shows 7,800 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in St Helens as of September 10, compared to just 4,325 in early March.

That’s 7.1per cent of the working-age population, up from 3.9 per cent.

The number getting help in St Helens also went up slightly compared to the start of August, when there were 7,790 claimants.

The ONS cautioned that changes to Universal Credit in response to the virus mean more people could get the benefits while still being employed, which could affect the figures.

In a statement Councillor Kate Groucutt, St Helens Borough's cabinet member for education, skills and business, said the local authority was taking steps to support people.

She said: "Throughout this crisis there have been many challenges – and unfortunately, job losses nationally has been one of them.

“As a council we are committed to doing all we can to support people into employment.

"This is evident through the fantastic outcomes achieved through the Ways to Work scheme which has assisted more than 300 people since March this year, with more than 90 going onto find employment during this period with the team’s assistance.

“If your employment has been affected as a result of Covid-19 I would urge you to contact Ways to Work by calling 01744 676131 or by emailing”

With St Helens in the highest tier of lockdown restrictions there have been renewed fears about the impact on jobs and the local economy and questions raised over whether new government support measures are enough.