Northampton Hope Centre chief calls on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to tackle cost of living crisis by ‘putting more cash in hands of poorest who need it most’

Some benefits are being cut while claims hit six-month high as food banks struggle to keep up

Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 12:45 pm

Charity chiefs in Northampton are begging Rishi Sunak to put more cash in the hands of the poorest who need it most.

The Chancellor is said to be finalising a package of measures that could be announced as soon as Thursday (May 26).

That followed revelations by energy regulator Ofgem that annual bills were likely to rocket by at least another 40 percent in October.

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Northampton poverty charity chief, Robin Burgess, says Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to increase peoples' incomes to tackle the cost of living crisis

Numbers claiming benefits in Northamptonshire have hit the highest levels in six months and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand.

Yet local charities fear many are having their payments CUT by officials.

Robin Burgess, chief executive of Northampton poverty charity The Hope Centre, admits charities also need government support but insisted: “Putting cash in the hands of the poorest should be the first response.

“The Chancellor needs a whole package to do with fuel to help everybody.

“But, speaking specifically to people on low incomes and benefits, an increase of 10 percent matching the level of inflation will not be enough.

“Others are calling for reinstatement of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift which was given during Covid and then taken away.

“I would hope, on top of that, the uplift across whole rate of Universal Credit would be increased.

“They can’t do a great deal about the cost of food. They only way they can address this crisis is by increasing benefits.”

According to latest Department for Work and Pensions data, 30,551 people were receiving Universal Credit in West Northamptonshire in mid-April – the highest number since December.

The number of 28,931 claimants in North Northamptonshire is the most since November.

More than half of those are families with children.

Local food providers say they are seeing more people having having benefits cut or stopped.

Sanctions usually imposed when a claimants miss meetings were suspended until last June, when Job Centres reopened.

Government figures published this week show that in January 2022 – the most recent month for which data is available – 38,244 sanctions were imposed on Universal Credit claimants nationally, compared with around 16,000 in July and 448 In January 2021.

Mr Burgess added: “At the very point when people are poorest and the cost of living crisis is so great, their income is being reduced and poverty accentuated even further.”

The Hope Centre is among around 40 organisations which are part of the local alliance of food providers helping around 4,000 people a week across West Northamptonshire.

But that figure is thought to be only around ten percent of those who could be using food banks.

Mr Burgess added: “Lots of people are just too proud, so the number we could be seeing is closer to 40,000.

“During Covid we received funding from government to help us cope with the crisis, to help feed people on low incomes through food banks.

“Because everybody is poorer, the amount of food being donated is really going down.

"So not only are people’s incomes lower, we have less food to give them and we’ve had no grant income to support the work we do.

“We are the front line in coping with this and we need help as well.”

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