Sheffield MP's 'pull your heads out of the sand' call to Government over poverty levels

Sheffield MP Louise Haigh told Government ministers to “pull their heads out of the sand” and take action to support families facing destitution.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 2:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 2:54 pm

The Heeley Labour MP spoke out after new research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found “intolerable” levels of destitution in the UK.

The charity’s report revealed that 2.4 million people experienced “extreme hardship” in 2019, including 550,000 children.

A household is considered destitute when it cannot afford two or more of the essentials needed to survive, such as food and shelter.

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Heeley MP Louise Haigh

Analysis by the JRF revealed that, between 2017 and 2019, the total number of people experiencing destitution rose by 54% and the number of children experiencing destitution rose by 52%.

The research also found that Yorkshire and the Humber had “above average” rates of destitution.

The report identifies low-paid work, unaffordable housing costs and an inadequate social security system as key drivers of destitution.

In particular, the charity found that the minimum five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment is a “core driver of destitution”, with many people forced to borrow UC advances to survive this period, leaving them facing unaffordable repayments.

Earlier this year, research by Loughborough University also found that 35,399 children are living in poverty in Sheffield – an increase of 4% over the last four years.

In Sheffield, the percentage of children living in poverty rose from 30% to 34% between 2014/15 and 2018/19. Yorkshire and the Humber saw a similar rise from 28% to 32%, while the UK as a whole saw the figure increase from 28% to 30%.

To deal with the problem, the JRF recommends that the government end the five-week wait for Universal Credit and make the £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit – granted by the government in March – permanent.

Louise Haigh said: “From the growing number of homeless people on our streets to record food bank use, successive Tory governments have allowed millions of people to fall into hardship.

“The Government must scrap the planned cut to Universal Credit, which will take £20 a week from six million families, and finally end the five-week wait."

“The pandemic and lockdown have hit businesses hard and we’re now seeing record lob losses that could lead to another sharp rise in destitution.

“But that can be avoided if ministers pull their heads out of the sand and take action to support jobs and protect people’s incomes.”

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