The number of young unemployed people in West Lothian is almost double what it was a year ago - but that’s still an improvement on the middle of 2020.

A grim set of statistics was revealed in an update on covid-related data presented to a meeting of the Community Planning Partnership Board this week .

The board which is made up representatives from the Third Sector, West Lothian Council, NHS and other government agencies and private businesses also heard that the take up of The Covid related isolation grants was minimal.

In the youth unemployment claimant count in January 2020 was 650. By December it had risen to 1265.

That is a claimant rate for 18 to 24 year olds of nine per cent compared to a Scottish rate of 8.3 per cent.

At its highest the youth unemployment rate in the county was 1510, almost twn per cent of 18-24 year olds, in August last year, and again higher than the Scottish average.

Another stand out revelation from the papers presented to the committee by Anti-poverty Manager Elaine Nisbet was the more than 19,000 food parcels distributed in December.

The council’s 34 providers of parcels handed out 19,312 parcels - the most since the scheme started in May.

Mrs Nisbet said the figures corresponded to the Christmas lockdown and demand had continued into the first two weeks of the new year.

The self isolation grant take up has been poor since it was introduced. Mrs Nisbet said the criteria to qualify had changed four times since the grant was introduced.

In October there were 264 application for the grant. Of these 204 were refused and only 41 granted. In December only 167 applications were made and 118 were refused, only 35 granted.

“There is no discretion- you either meet the criteria or you don’t,” said Mrs Nisbet.

Chairing the meeting Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan said: “ There’s a concern a lot of people have had and that is the effects of furlough of having a reduction in household incomes at a time when they are facing increasing costs and there’s not that much support for people who fall into this category.”

Mrs Nisbet said: “For many it will be about thinking abut the debt they are carrying and getting good advice. I think many people won’t qualify for benefits and they will have to think what is happening going forwards. Some people have perhaps taken mortgage holidays and will have to start paying them back . They are facing increased payments at a time there has also been an increased spend on electricity gas and food.”

Councillor Sullivan paid tribute to the staff of the Advice Shop for the “sterling job it has been doing for the people of West Lothian.”

She added: “I know they have been invaluable.”