Residents across Leeds are being forced to turn to loan sharks and high-interest money lenders to try to make ends meet due to benefits deductions and the cost-of-living crisis.
Some of the most deprived areas in Leeds are going "cold and hungry" due to the current cost-of-living crisis, a report by the University of Leeds has revealed. Now, many people on benefits are suffering from cash deductions which are having a massive impact.
Some of the areas most impacted are Beeston, Armley, Gipton and Harehills where people are regularly skipping meals as well as not using the electricity and gas. Many have even been forced to pawn off their possessions to survive.
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Dr Daniel Edmiston, of Leeds’ School of Sociology and Social Policy and lead author of the report, said: "The economic gap between Leeds and the rest of the UK had widened in recent years, pushing some into deeper, more severe financial crisis. Rising inflation is increasing the risk and severity of poverty.
"Rather than acting as a safety net at this difficult time, the social security system is functioning as a debt collector for many with 45% of Universal Credit claimants losing up to 25% of their entitlement due to benefit deductions, recovery of advance payments or arrears."
The report says £18 million worth of Universal Credit payments are being withheld per year from the lowest income households across Leeds. This means many are turning to loan sharks to buy essentials.
Some of those interviewed as part of the study talked about their situation. Jenny said: "I was supposed to be keeping it for my daughter, but I actually sold my wedding ring and engagement ring just so I can top up the electric."
Abel added: "I wouldn’t like to have anybody live like this, because it’s not good. This is not good, because this is heart attack material. I had a heart attack, and basically I had a stroke. It’s not good for you. I actually felt better when I was in the hospital because I knew there was people around me looking after me."
Wesley said: "I’m depressed to death. If it weren’t for [friend] coming and helping like go to the shops for me and stuff like that, I reckon I’d have had committed suicide a long time ago. I’m being serious. I don’t, I don’t go nowhere. I don’t do nowt."
Dr Edmiston did make recommendations in his report for ways to help people. His recommendations include increasing benefits in line with inflation, introducing a minimum income guarantee and abolishing the five-week wait for Universal Credit.
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: "I pay tribute to the fantastic work underway across West Yorkshire to provide food banks, warm spaces and debt advice for the most vulnerable. But the findings in this report are absolutely appalling – it is a stain on our national conscience that people are cold and hungry in the sixth richest country in the world.
"For months we’ve been calling for an increase to Universal Credit, but the government is idly standing by while people suffer. Enough is enough. The Chancellor must act in this week’s Autumn Statement to provide a plan to save our economy, protect our households and rescue our public services."
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