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Benefits Street does not reflect most jobseekers in the East

PUBLISHED: 16:09 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:16 14 August 2014

Deidre Kelly, better known as White Dee from the television show Benefits Street.

Deidre Kelly, better known as White Dee from the television show Benefits Street.

Jobseekers in the East are not like those depicted on television shows such as Benefits Street, the region’s job centre manager has said, as she urged employers to get in touch when it is looking for recruits.

Julia Nix, district manager for East Anglia at Jobcentre Plus, said there were highly skilled people using the taxpayer-funded service as the latest figures showed a further fall in unemployment in the region.

Official figures show that between April and June unemployment in the East of England fell 13,000 to 158,000, and the number of people claiming job seeker’s allowance in Norfolk, north Suffolk and the Fens fell 21pc in the quarter to July to 14,539.

King’s Lynn and North Norfolk saw the most marked fall in people claiming job seeker benefits over the quarter, with the figures showing a fall of 23pc and 25pc respectively, year on year in the two districts showed a fall of 37pc and 40pc respectively.

Ms Nix said it had been a “sort of slow dripping tap” over the past year, with the number of vacancies picking up as employers had more confidence in the labour market.

She also said that there had been a lot of support from the Government to employers to help improve skills.

“They (employers) often do not realise the extra support that we are now offering. I do not think that they know that there are all these pots of money and schemes that they can have to get them a skilled person.

“They watch TV programmes like Benefits Street and other ones, but that is the minority of our customers. There is still that perception, and it is not right. The media doesn’t help us in that respect. The people on those programmes are the minority not the majority.”

But she added: “There will always be a small customer group that needs additional help and is a vulnerable customer, but there is an awful lot of quality candidates.”

“We have graduates, people in between jobs, accountants. We have a full range of highly qualified people,” she added.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the fall in unemployment but said that the combination of rising employment and falling pay growth suggested the economy was very good at creating low-paid jobs, but struggling to create the better-paid work needed for a fair and sustainable recovery.

“Self-employment has been responsible for almost half of the rise in employment over the last year. The fact that self-employed workers generally earn less than employees means our pay crisis is even deeper than previously thought, as their pay is not recorded in official figures.”

Ms Nix said that there was support in place for people until their wage increased and that often within a few months they had more experience and a few more hours of work.

Benefits Street, a television show which portrayed the lives of people living on a Birmingham street, was met with public outrage when it was screened. The programme was filmed on Birmingham’s James Turner Street where an estimated 90pc of residents claim between £500 and £900 a month.

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