Today a cross-sector coalition of North East organisations has come together to urge the Prime Minister and Chancellor to ensure that social security support, such as Universal Credit, is increased in line with inflation.
Not doing so will push low-income families across the North East – a region with the UK’s highest rate of child poverty – into even greater levels of hardship, an outcome described by the coalition as “both cruel and completely avoidable”.
A letter to the Prime Minister and Chancellor
Writing jointly to the Prime Minister and Chancellor as organisations “committed to advocating for the people, public services, voluntary organisations and businesses of the North East”, the coalition emphasises that failing to ensure social security payments keep up with the cost of household essentials would have “a devastating and disproportionate impact on children and families across our region”.
More than half – 52% – of all babies, children and young people growing up in the North East of England are in families relying on Universal Credit or equivalent legacy benefits. Most of these families are in low-paid work, or recognised as being unable to work due to disability or caring responsibilities.
The 17 organisations backing today’s letter highlight that low-income families have already faced a significant real terms cut to their income this year, as social security failed to keep pace with inflation – on top of several years of freezes to this support.
The regional organisations have also shared their concerns that not increasing Universal Credit and other social security payments by inflation will put even greater pressure on overstretched public services and voluntary sector organisations in the region; will damage the North East’s economy at a critical juncture – as families have even less money to spend with local businesses; and will completely undermine the Government’s commitments on levelling up.
Today’s letter to the Prime Minister and Chancellor – which has been copied to all North East MPs – concludes:
“We all want a North East in which every baby, child and young person can thrive, can fulfil their potential, and can take advantage of everything our beautiful region has to offer. Achieving that ambition requires Government to invest in children, young people, families, and the services which support them – not make life even harder for those already struggling to keep their heads above water.”
Anna Turley, Chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, which co-ordinated today’s letter with the support of Citizens Advice Newcastle, said:
“…Mothers filling their babies’ bottles with watered down evaporated milk – or putting off weaning their infants because of worries about the cost of food. Families switching their freezers on for an hour a day to try and save money, with all the health risks that brings. Children coming to school exhausted because they are taking turns to sleep in a bed with their siblings…”
“Today’s joint letter from organisations working in different sectors right across our region sends a powerful message to the Prime Minister and Chancellor that we want so much more and better for children growing up here in the North East. That requires sustained investment in families and young people – and recognising the role that a strong social security safety net should play in this – not making life even harder for those already struggling to keep their heads above water.”
The organisations signing today’s letter to the Prime Minster and Chancellor are:
- North East Child Poverty Commission
- Children North East
- Citizens Advice County Durham
- Citizens Advice Darlington, Redcar & Cleveland
- Citizens Advice Gateshead
- Citizens Advice Newcastle
- Citizens Advice North Tyneside
- Citizens Advice Northumberland
- Citizens Advice Stockton
- Citizens Advice Sunderland
- NE Youth
- North East & North Cumbria Child Health and Wellbeing Network
- North East England Chamber of Commerce
- Northern TUC
- Schools North East
- Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE)
- Youth Focus: North East