24,000 in Northumberland await benefits decision

Benefits rise decision.Benefits rise decision.
Benefits rise decision.
More than 24,000 people in Northumberland will lose out if the Government increases benefits at the same rate as wages, rather than inflation, new analysis shows.

A decision on whether benefits will be increased by the same rate as wages – currently 5.4% – or prices, which soared almost 10% in the year to August, is due to be confirmed later this month.

New analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) charity reveals that an estimated 24,932 families in the Berwick, Wansbeck and Blyth Valley constituencies receiving means-tested support will be impacted if benefits were only to rise in line with wages.

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The planned increase would also apply to child benefits, which are claimed for 36,455 children in the area.

The JRF says the basic rate of benefits is currently at a historic low in real terms.

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy advisor for the charity, said: “We know that millions of families have already gone without the essentials this year, including missing meals, not cooking hot food or having hot showers.

"It is unconscionable that the Government should be considering cutting their already limited ability to pay for what they need."

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A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We are committed to looking after the most vulnerable which is why we’ve delivered at least £1,200 of support to families this winter, while also saving households an average of £1,000 a year through our Energy Price Guarantee.

"This support is on top of the annual working-age benefits bill, which is over £87 billion.”