Sunderland College students launch food bank collection to support families after Universal Credit uplift cut
Sunderland College students have launched a campaign to collect food items to help struggling families following the Government’s decision to press ahead with the axing of the £20 Universal Credit uplift payment.
Despite fierce criticism, the Government stopped the additional payment on Wednesday, October 6.
This has left the North East region facing further financial hardship with 46 per cent of households with children currently in receipt of Universal or Working Tax Credit, the highest in the country along with Yorkshire and Humber.
It’s a decision which stirred emotions among students to the point they decided to do something to help.
Year 13 student Summer Milson, 17, has family members who will be affected by the reduction.
She said: “This is going to be the difference in choosing between essentials as to whether to put the heating on or being able to provide three meals a day. I don’t see how MPs on a salary of £82,000 per year can think it’s right to take away this £20. They have no idea what it’s like to be in that position.”
Classmate Mia O’donnell, 17, added: “I think it’s a heartless decision by the Government. I know it was meant to be a temporary measure but during this time the cost of everything has gone up – fuel, electric, gas and the price of food. It’s left many people in a vulnerable position, particularly after the impact of the pandemic.”
It’s a sentiment shared by fellow Year 13 student Keira Carling, 17, who said: “I think it’s completely immoral and shows a lack of empathy. It will plunge so many people into poverty.”
Since the announcement, students have started donating a range of non perishable goods such as pasta, tinned produce, biscuits, crisps and rice which will be delivered to Sunderland Food Bank at half-term.
Neive Martin, 17, said: “A lot of people have been talking about people needing support and so we thought rather than just talking, we would look to do what we can to help. We’ve had a really good response with large amounts of food already donated along with toiletries which are also important.”
For fellow student Jared Turnbull, 17, the initiative is as much about highlighting the issue of poverty as well as collecting donations.
He said: “It’s important to say this is not just a collection but also about making a statement that a lot of people are really struggling and we are making a stand in solidarity.
"We’ve had a great response to the appeal but we really shouldn’t be having to do this.”
Having decided they wanted to help, the students approached Dan Gibson, lecturer in Criminology at the college.
Dan said: “I think it’s inspiring and you can see the passion they have. It’s a really positive initiative and everyone at the college is getting involved.”
After half-term, the students hope to start collecting festive food and toys to provide Christmas hampers for disadvantaged families.
Speaking previously about the decision to axe the uplift payment, a Government spokesman said: “As announced by the Chancellor at the Budget, the uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.”