Thousands of households across Newcastle and elsewhere in the region are struggling with the cost of living crisis. Post-pandemic over 22% of the UK population are trapped in ‘relative poverty’ with the re-appearance of ‘absolute poverty’ after decades of post-war growth and state welfare provision.
According to the North East Poverty Commission the number of youngsters classed as living in poverty in the city rose sharply from 28% to 41% between 2015 and 2020. This figure is likely to be higher with the UK government’s decision to remove the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit last October.
Active Inclusion Team and support schemes
Despite ”deep and unfair” cuts to its annual budget, Newcastle City Council has renewed its commitment to address inequality and hardship. Through its Active Inclusion Team , city residents in need can get advice on things ranging from home insulation, reducing energy bills and health to practical support making benefit claims.
In 2021-22 the Welfare Rights Service and funded partners like Newcastle Citizens Advice helped people to claim over £26m in support – putting cash into residents pockets to support their families and spend in the local economy.
The Council is also supporting those ”struggling” with council tax bills after central government abolished the Council Tax Benefit Support Scheme. A local support scheme has been established which is helping 30,000 residents to pay no or reduced council tax.
Free school meals
And when the government refused to feed hungry youngsters during the school holidays, it was the local authority that stepped in to ensure that the 15,700 children who received free school meals had access to food.
In Kenton Ward in the north west of the city over 1 in 3 youngsters are trapped in poverty. Local councillors are signed up to help challenge both ”hardship” and ”inequality” and have outlined a range of local measures working alongside voluntary organisations, community groups and statutory bodies.
- The Kenton Welfare Rights Service is being rolled out for another year due to a £4k grant from the local ward committee. Since it began in 2014 the service, based at the Kenton Centre, has enabled more vulnerable residents to get the help they need. So far £1.4m in unclaimed benefits like Pension Credit, PIP, ESA and UC for those in work and not, has been awarded
- Working in partnership with councillors Newcastle Citizen’s Advice has helped over 200 Kenton residents with debt, fuel and employment problems in the last year;
- One in 5 local sixth and college students are getting a £15 weekly bursary from the council (based on the old EMA scheme) with scores of young carers getting a one off £300 grant towards books and stationary;
- Hundreds of low income families have been able to secure a one-off £50 fuel voucher from the council administered Household Support Fund;
- Families on UC have been helped with £15 weekly food vouchers to cover all holiday periods;
- Kenton Food Bank based in North Kenton, relying on voluntary donations, is playing a pivotal role in supporting people experiencing ”food poverty”.
Councillor Ged Bell, Vice-Chair of the Kenton Committee, said:
”During the pandemic it’s been residents on lower incomes who’ve been hit hardest. We feel strongly about food and family poverty and the impact it has on health, well-being and schooling and have backed local measures to address it.”