The UK government should retain the £20 increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. This increase has been a lifeline to thousands of households across the city for people struggling to afford the essentials. Charities, health care professionals, foodbanks and Labour Councillors are backing the Keep the lifeline campaign. They are calling on the government to keep the £20 lifeline in place beyond October 2021.
Struggling to make ends meet
At the beginning of the pandemic, the national government recognised that UC didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of essentials. The extra £20 per week has helped millions of people to keep their heads above water. The impact of Covid-19 in Newcastle saw the number claiming out of work benefits rise from 9,330 in 2019 to 15,610 in July 2020. The planned cut to UC payments by £86 a month is a devastating blow for millions of low-income families who are already struggling to make ends meet. The North East Child Poverty Commission indicates that 4.3 million children (31%, across the UK) are living in poverty. Newcastle has 41% children living in poverty a rise of 13% since 2014/15
Trussell Trust research: Keep the lifeline
The Trussell Trust’s research found that the equivalent of more than a million people claiming UC say they are very likely to need to use a food bank if the cut goes ahead. Withdrawing this extra £20 will affect those people who already make difficult choices such as either feed their kids or heat their home.
Newcastle food banks
Food banks across the city like the West End Food Bank play a pivotal role in mitigating the impact of food poverty. Nationally the UK network of foodbanks distributed over 2.5m food parcels from 2020-2021. In Newcastle, Newcastle Food Bank issued 19,000 food parcels to vulnerable residents across the city. There is a danger that this number will rise sharply if the cut is implemented and plunge many into abject poverty.
There is substantial public support for keeping the £20 a week increase to UC. The National government needs to maintain this payment and deliver a social security system that enables people to afford life’s necessities like food. Newcastle Labour will continue to lobby the government to keep the £20 uplift in Universal Credit to help protect residents from unnecessary hardship and fight to reduce food poverty. We urge the government to think again.