South Tyneside food banks bracing themselves for 'perfect storm'

Food banks in South Tyneside are bracing themselves ahead of what one local third-sector boss described as a ‘perfect storm’, as the autumn sees the Government’s Covid support measures come to an end.
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Those overseeing operations at the borough’s food bank centres predict they may be facing their biggest challenge to date, as furlough money dries up and as the £20 uplift to Universal Credit welfare payments are cut - despite some recent opposition from backbench MPs.

The end to the Government’s early-pandemic ban on evictions is also expected to have a significant impact, community centre bosses say.

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Thousands of South Tyneside residents are set to be hit by the incoming changes to Universal Credit support, which are set to come into effect this October.

Angie Comerford of Hebburn Helps.Angie Comerford of Hebburn Helps.
Angie Comerford of Hebburn Helps.

In Jarrow alone, 4,320 working-age families with children claim universal credit or working tax credits. Meanwhile, 3,880 working families without children are reliant on the welfare support.

“People are going to take a massive hit,” said Angie Comerford, co-founder of the Hebburn Helps.

"We have a couple of families that rely on that extra amount of money to get by. So I know that’s going to have a knock-off effect for a fair few people.”

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"£20 is a fair bit of money if you don’t have any to start off with.”

Brian Thomas, the CEO of South Shields charity, Hospitality and Hope, told The Gazette that the area is facing a ‘perfect storm’, as the Trussell Trust network attempts to lobby Number 10 into a U-turn over the policy decision.

"I don’t think we should underestimate the impact this is going to have,” he said.

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"Our experiences point to the £20 top-up taking some of the community out of food insecurity. So we’re now heading into a perfect storm situation where furlough is being cut off and Universal Credit is being removed.

"The Government are talking a lot about ‘levelling up’, but they’re clearly not. South Tyneside is already one of the most deprived areas in the country and moves like this mean that, if anything, they’re levelling down here – not levelling up.”

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