The Department for Work and Pensions could be forced to double the number of work coaches on its books if the economic fallout from coronavirus is severe.
The government currently employs around 13,500 coaches, who help people claiming benefits get back into and progress in work.
Appearing in front of the Lords economic affairs committee to discuss Universal Credit, DWP secretary Therese Coffey said hiring would need to be ramped up if the economic downturn is worse than that predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
She told the committee: “We do intend to recruit more people, recognising the larger number of people who will need our services, whether that’s in terms of work coaches or people who manage claims.”
The OBR’s latest analysis, released in May, predicts the cost of the pandemic to the taxpayer will be around £123bn, up from a previous estimate of £103.7bn. More than half of the increase was due to the cost to the government of contributing to the salary costs of furloughed workers.
The secretary of state added: “We still need to understand how the economy is going to reshape and bounce back, hopefully.
“We do anticipate that interactions with Universal Credit claimants will be somewhat different from an era when we have had actually very low levels of unemployment.
“There are still vacancies there. One of successes of the furlough scheme is we have kept that attachment between employers and employees, largely and we now need to help those people, including self-employed people, to recover.”