Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has renewed his calls for the Chancellor to scrap his planned cut to Universal Credit and put tackling child poverty at the centre of his 3 March Budget.
This comes after figures from the North East Child Poverty Commission (NEPC) show that Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 7.7 per cent rise in child poverty between 2014/15 and 2018/19 – with child poverty levels in Stockton North jumping from 25.5 to 34.4 per cent in that period. The North East has seen the steepest rise in child poverty levels in the couuntry.
Two out of five children living below the poverty line are not entitled to free school meals as a result of “eligibility requirements” – prompting NEPC to call for an extension to free school meals provision for all children in households receiving Universal Credit.
“One child living in poverty is too many, and yet we have seen a decade of increased levels of child poverty as a result of Tory austerity policies and a Government unwilling to properly address this.
“The Chancellor needs to seriously consider what consequences his plans to cut Universal Credit could have on poverty levels. He needs to ensure families have the means to put food on their tables and pay the bills.
“At the very least the £20 increase to Universal Credit should be kept in place, but the Chancellor also needs to make sure all children below the poverty line are eligible for free school meals. Some might question the cost of these measures but if it means children are not going hungry then surely they are a price worth paying.”
Notes to editors:
- There were 112,000 more Universal Credit claimants in the North East in December 2020 than at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- More details on the North East Child Poverty Commission and their figures are here.