UNEMPLOYMENT, hardship and poverty are on the rise as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ceredigion is assessed.

A “timely” review of Ceredigion County Council’s strategy to fight poverty highlights the negative impact of Covid-19 on both the social and economic well-being of residents.

The authority’s anti-poverty policy expires this year and the new draft tackling hardship strategy is to be discussed by cabinet members on Tuesday (July 7).

A report to the meeting states that there are concerns about the pandemic’s impact on residents and an “increased risk that individuals and families will experience hardship.”

The economy shrank by two per  cent in the first three months of 2020 and it is anticipated to decrease by a significantly higher amount by the end of June with projections referenced in the report suggesting that the economy will fall into recession, with unemployment reaching as high as 10 per cent.

Stand-out figures for May 2020 include a £258,000 additional spend on council tax reduction scheme, an extra £64,000 on discretionary housing payments, a 4.4 per cent increase in the cost of an average shopping basket, 15 per cent of Ceredigion residents do not have internet access and 43 per cent say their wellbeing is being affected by Covid-19 and lockdown.

There are also 101 more children – an eight per cent rise – receiving free school meals, 1,280 to 1,381, and a large increase in demand for food parcels has been seen at Aberystwyth and Cardigan food banks – 37 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

Also highlighted is an increase in Universal Credit claims between mid March and mid April – an extra 774 claimants at Cardigan Job Centre Plus while Aberystwyth’s saw 1,089 additional claimants, according to DWP provisional data.

Ceredigion also relies heavily on tourism with around 4,000 linked to the industry which has been “hit particularly hard” the report adds, and an estimated 35 per cent have been asked to take unpaid leave.

The impact on farming and agriculture jobs is also highlighted.

An increase in redundancies is a risk over the next few months and “the tourism sector views the outlook as particularly bleak, with nearly all tourism businesses (96 per cent) expecting the future impact of the outbreak to be ‘significantly negative’.”

In Ceredigion, 1,892 applications for business support grant have been approved and £23.3 million paid out to local businesses across the county by the end of May as well as £7.5million to 636 business rate relief for retail, leisure and hospitality companies with a rateable value of £500,000 or less.

The aim of the strategy is to tackle hardship by providing a robust framework that will enable a shared understanding of the situation, consolidate and develop a range of initiatives to mitigate risk, and implement early and preventative action.

Data on hardship was gathered from 24 organisations in the preparation of the strategy, the report states, with collaboration a key part of the strategy, which includes a focus on preventative work.

Following cabinet’s decision there will be further consultation with partner organisations and members of the public in order to develop a detailed action plan.