May elections special

Newcastle city councillor is one of the first to sign up to ‘end food banks’

Stephen Lambert is councillor for Kenton Ward, Newcastle

City councillor Stephen Lambert is one of the first to sign a Trussell Trust pledge to end ‘Food Bank’s as part of a campaign to tackle food poverty in Newcastle.

Stephen Lambert, a Labour councillor who represents the Kenton district, has outlined a local plan to tackle food and household poverty both in Kenton an in nearby areas like Cowgate, Blakelaw and Fawdon.

Stephen, a former lecturer in Social Policy, states that his Kenton ward is one of the most ‘disadvantaged’ areas in Newcastle with one in three youngsters trapped in child poverty.

He said: ”Kenton Food Bank, supported by many cash-contributions from all sections of the NE3 community, is playing a key role to mitigate the impact of food poverty. But more needs to be done. At the end of the day the social security system needs urgent reform with many benefits simply too low to live on. The £20 uplift for those on Universal Credit is one way forward, but it needs to be made permanent. Many residents on disability benefits aren’t included sadly.”

Councillor Lambert’s colleagues, including Brian Dickinson, a Kenton Businessman, donated £1k in March with an additional £250 donated today including the Montagu Residents Group donating ‘massive food parcels’.

Kenton Ward has pledged to tackle hardship and inequality through a range of measures:

  • The local Advice Project, based in the Kenton Centre, is being rolled out for another year (2021-22) funded with a £4k grant from the local Ward Committee. The project has enabled more vulnerable residents to get the cash help they need. To date £1.4m in ‘unclaimed benefits’ like Universal credit. PIP and Pension Credit for old folk in need has been awarded by the DWP.
  • Three Newcastle Citizens Advice Drop-In Days have been held in Feb/March 2020 in Kenton Crescent Community Centre, Montagu’s Church of Ascension with another to be held later in the year at Kenton Park Sports Centre;
  • A campaign to boost the ‘take-up’ of ‘Newcastle Bursaries’ from the council to encourage more youngsters aged 16 to 19 from low-income backgrounds to stay on at school or college. 1,300 post-16 city students get this with one in 5 Kenton students receiving the £15 weekly grant.
  • Kenton School is now ‘Poverty Proofed’ and has/is offering support to overcome barriers that young people from less well-off backgrounds face. According to Councillor Lambert, a community governor, the school has worked with Kenton Food Bank and local families who have suffered during the Covid -19 pandemic. Laptops, free school meal vouchers and food parcels have been delivered to households in need.

Councillor Lambert said: ”From our experience and recent report out this week thousands of city residents who have been laid off with modest savings during the lockdown aren’t claiming UC believing wrongly they aren’t eligible. This isn’t the case and we urge them to make a claim.”

”Food poverty is everyone’s business both in Kenton and elsewhere in the city  – we can end food banks by ensuring people in need have enough to live on to cover the basics,” he added.

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