Government’s incoming Universal Credit cut will be ‘devastating’ for South Tyneside families, with North East set to be the UK's hardest-hit region

A food bank in South Tyneside has added its voice to pleas urging the Government to reconsider its planned slashing of Universal Credit payments, as a new survey shows almost 100,000 in the region may be hit by the incoming cut.

The Trussell Trust has published a new survey, laying bare the local impacts that the planned £20-a-week cut from Universal Credit payments will have for North East residents.

According to the network’s findings, 79,000 people in the region fear they will be forced to skip meals if the Government reduces the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments this October – making it the UK locality hardest hit by the cut.

Further, 84,000 people in the North East fear being unable to heat their homes this winter, the Trussell Trust report found, while 56,000 say they will need to use a food bank if the planned cut goes ahead.

Angie Comerford, team leader at the Hebburn Helps food bank and crisis centre.

The incoming Universal Credit reduction will be a huge blow for thousands of families in the region both in and out of work, the organisation added.

"We have people visiting our centre where parents are skipping meals to feed their kids at the moment,” said Angie Comerford, co-founder of the Hebburn Helps food bank and community centre.

“There are some parents – and a lot of them are working full-time – who skip meals on a weekly basis in order to feed their children in South Tyneside.

"For these people, that extra £20 is that bit more on the gas or the electric. So taking that away from them is going to be devastating.”

The Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of more than 1,300 food bank centres, is part of a coalition of 100 organisations that is urgently calling on the UK government to stop the cut as part of the Keep the Lifeline campaign.  

The cut comes amid growing reported levels of need at food banks throughout the charity’s network, besides year-on-year increases in numbers of emergency food parcels distributed to people who are living in crisis. 

“Cutting this lifeline will be a devastating blow for thousands of people across the North East already struggling to make ends meet,” said Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust.

"People in this region are most likely to fear being unable to meet their basic needs, which completely undermines the government’s levelling up agenda

“These are families already caught in impossible situations who worry every day about switching on the heating and feeding their children. Families who are nearly at breaking point but just about managing to keep their heads above water. 

“This research reveals the shocking consequences of what lies ahead if this lifeline is cut in October. No one should have to suffer the indignity of not being able to afford the essentials in life – like food or heating.

"That’s why we’re saying it would be wrong of the UK government to take away £20 a week from already precarious incomes and push even more people through the doors of food banks. 

“The answer must be to ensure our social security system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. At the very least we’re saying this October, the UK government must choose to protect people and choose to keep the lifeline." 

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