A children's charity boss has hit out at the 'devastating' affect the costs of living crisis is having on some of the region's most vulnerable families.
Imran Hussain, policy director of Action for Children, has called for extra help for the poorest families, who he says are already having to make real choices between heating and eating and are feeding their children at the expense of adults in the household.
"It is a grim time to be poor and on Universal Credit," said Mr Hussain.
Go here for more news and information about the cost of living in the UK
"It's about 100 days since the big cut to Universal Credit came in, when families lost more than £1,000 income per year. This is a massive amount for people on a very low income anyway.
"Benefits will be going up by around three per cent in April, but inflation is running at seven per cent, so there is going to be a big drop in living standards for people who are at the bottom anyway."
And according to Mr Hussain, the hike in the energy price cap yesterday could be the final straw for some households.
And while he said that he was pleased the government had offered some help with fuel bills, he thought that the help should have been focussed on the poorest families, rather than given to everyone.
"The poorest families are spending around 16% of their income on fuel costs, compared to five per cent spent by medium-income families," he said.
"The cost of living crisis is a storm everyone is facing, but not everyone is in the same boat to deal with it.
"Action for Children has been providing more emergency crisis grants for families who are already squeezed by basic living costs and stories about parents going without food to feed their children are all real and all happening right now.
"We would call on the government to target any help at specifically at the very poorest families with children through the Universal Credit system.
"It's been obvious for some time that Universal Credit is simply not enough to live on, they are struggling.
"Universal Credit is supposed to keep families out of poverty and it is not doing that."
Mr Hussain is calling for a six per cent rise in Universal Credit rates across the board, and then increased rates for the child element of the benefit, to specifically target families with children.
According to a report by End Child Poverty last year, North East England showed the greatest growth in child poverty over the past five years and has risen by a third, taking it from below the UK average to the second highest of any region.
"Children growing up in poverty can be growing up and making poor life choices, which puts extra pressure on the public purse in terms of NHS spending and schools," Mr Hussain said.
"The struggle is real for low-income families and yesterday's announcement on the energy price cap is going to felt very hard."
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