74,986 households in the Tees Valley could be pushed into financial hardship if the Government goes ahead with its planned cut to Universal Credit, warn Tees Labour MPs Alex Cunningham and Andy McDonald.
In a letter to the Chancellor, the three MPs have urged him to re-consider his Government’s plans to cut Universal Credit in the face of growing unemployment and foodbank usage as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. To press ahead with the cut, the letter states, would be a “cruel and unnecessary act”.
Universal Credit was increased by £20 a week at the start of the pandemic, with Labour arguing that the increase highlighted the inadequacies of the current social security system.
“Thousands of households rely on Universal Credit to make ends meet and the £20 uplift was a lifeline to many people. It’s frankly unbelievable that the Government is now considering to cut this £20 a week from April 2021 when we are in the midst of a jobs crisis as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Cutting Universal Credit at a time when people are facing unemployment or a reduction in income is not the right approach. We’re urging the Chancellor to show he is on the side of struggling households and cancel this planned cut.”
“Universal Credit has been the main focus of financial support for many families since the first lockdown in March with a huge number of people having to apply for it having lost their job during the pandemic.
“It is simply not enough for families to live on and I have been contacted by many people in Middlesbrough who fear losing their home. The fact this Government can even consider removing the £20 uplift at this time shows their absolute disregard for the many families struggling to survive.”
The Trussell Trust reports that there has been a 51% increase in food parcel distribution between April and September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The Government have released a COVID Winter Grant Scheme worth £170m to help people pay for household goods and essential utilities. £700k of this has been earmarked for Stockton Borough Council. However this fund will run out in March 2021.