Hungry families queued outside Britain’s most famous food bank as frontline workers warned of the devastating impact of Universal Credit cuts.
Boris Johnson stood by his decision to take £20-a-week from the poorest in society today.
His heartless stance came as a huge blow to the long line of men and women who stood in the rain at Newcastle’s West End Foodbank, which featured in the 2016 film ‘I, Daniel Blake’.
Under the past five years of Tory rule, the number of food parcels handed out there has risen at an alarming rate.
It more than doubled during lockdown.
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North News & Pictures Ltd)
And there were stark warnings of even tougher times ahead due to the cuts.
In the year to March 2021, the hard working team of six staff and 80 volunteers handed out 19,000 food parcels – an average of 1600 parcels per month – to feed 53,000 people.
It was a rise in demand of 62 per cent, up 20,000 on the previous year’s 33,000. It included 21,500 children under the age of 16.
North News & Pictures Ltd)
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Mum-of-two Angie Gibbons, 58, of nearby Benwell, will see her benefits fall from £380-a-month after her housing association rent is deducted, to £280-a-month. She fears getting into debt to pay her heating, water, council tax and phone bill. “It will make a big difference to me,” she said.
“In the past, I had to go to people for help with debts and I am worried that will happen again. I owed more than £3,000 two years ago, and had to pay it off bit by bit, you have to scrimp and save.”
She added: “If Boris Johnson were in my position, he would think again. He just does not understand how this feels. The money is vital to me.”
Paul Burnett, 44, an unemployed painter and decorator, is seeing his income fall from £411-a-month to £326, and spends hours every day looking for work.
“I was struggling to pay my bills so I had to drop my pride and come to the foodbank,” he said. “I have been looking for jobs and updating my CV every day since I was put on Universal Credit. “Boris Johnson says there are jobs out there, I can tell him that there are not; I have to borrow money from people.
“There is council tax, electric, gas, water bills, finding bus fares,
I spend five to six hours a day looking for work.” He lives close to the Newcastle food bank, which works with more than 60 agencies who refer people in times of need, including Citizens Advice, Social Services, Refugee Organisations and Homeless Charities.
The charity the Trussell Trust, which supports 1200 food banks across the country, warns the benefit cuts mean the ‘loss of a lifeline’. “No one should have to suffer the indignity of not being able to afford the essentials in life – like food or heating,” said Trust chief exec Emma Revie.
“That’s why we’re saying it would be wrong of the UK government to take away £20 a week from already precarious incomes and push even more people through the doors of food banks.”
Catherine McKinnell MP, Newcastle North MP, described it as the ‘biggest overnight benefits cut in history’.