BLAENAU Gwent had the highest level of workless households in the UK last year, newly-published figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that in 2011, 31.8 per cent (around 7,000) of the county borough’s households in which there was at least one person aged 16-64 were workless.

And just 36.6 per cent of such households in Blaenau Gwent were classed as ‘working’ – having all members in that age bracket in work – the fourth-lowest rate in the UK.

This latest round of job-related bad news comes just days after the Argus reported that research issued by Sheffield Hallam University suggested Blaenau Gwent’s real level of unemployment is 16.7 per cent, the second highest rate in the UK, behind that of Knowsley, in Merseyside.

That research used ONS monthly figures for people claiming Job Seekers Allowance, as well as incapacity benefit claimants and information from the Labour Force Survey.

The new ONS report contains further worrying figures on unemployment for the county borough.

Almost a quarter of its unemployed people (24.4 per cent) live in a workless household, with only Liverpool and Manchester recording higher rates. And 33.2 per cent (around 4,000) of the area’s children live in workless households, the fourth highest rate in the UK.

UK-wide, the areas with the highest rates of workless households are all former centres of heavy industry that have experienced several decades of decline.

Sickness, both long term and temporary, is cited by people living in workless households as the main reason for not working. This is the same for all regions of England – except the East of England – and for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The sickness rate however, is far higher in Wales (32.6 per cent), Scotland (34.1 per cent) and Northern Ireland (39.1 per cent) than it is in England (26.2 per cent).