Urgent ‘family stimulus’ package could be vital to North East families

Food banks are the lifeline for so many families in the region during the Covid crisis.
Picture: Jean Pieri/AP/Press Association Images


A NEW report from a leading UK think tank and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for an urgent ‘family stimulus’ package alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new job support scheme.

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Carys Roberts said today that without a significant cash injection, more families will be forced to rely on food banks.

A ‘family stimulus’ programme of aid could prove crucial to families in the North East and other areas which have suffered high levels of child poverty for the last six years.

North East England Chamber of Commerce, Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE) and the North East Child Poverty Commission (NECPC) say there is an urgent need to address growing levels of child poverty.

The three agencies have written a letter to government demanding action on child poverty levels in the region.

Carol Botten, chief executive of VONNE, said: “This was an issue before Covid and will be only be exacerbated by the economic impacts of the pandemic. The Government needs to act now and act fast to address child poverty.”

The IPPR/TUC report argues that doubling child benefit would put £1bn directly into the economy over the next 18 months, lift 500,000 children and 20,000 adults out of poverty, and boost the economy by £19bn.

The report says increasing the child element of universal credit to £20 a week per child and eliminating the two-child limit would take more than 700,000 children out of poverty and put £11bn directly into the economy.

The NECPC has set out a number of recommendations, including retaining the £20 uplift in Universal Credit beyond April 2021, and extending free school meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit. The Commission says that as of 2018/19, over a third (36 per cent) of children in Sunderland are living in child poverty.

During the Covid-19 crisis, North East families have suffered the highest unemployment rates in 2020: for the three months up to June, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East at 5.2 per cent.

Sunderland businesses have offered to help disadvantaged children during the half term, in response to 322 MPs voting against free school meals during the holiday.

Businesses such as Fausto café, ScS, St Leonards RC Primary school, and City Tea rooms have either donated to the cause or offered to feed children for free.

James Ramsbotham, North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said: “If the Government is serious about the ‘levelling-up’ agenda for regions like the North East, we need to see both urgent and ongoing action to tackle child poverty and protect the most disadvantaged in society from the immediate and longer-term economic impacts of Covid.”

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