More than 20,000 Sunderland children live in families facing cuts to their tax credits, says a national charity.
The Children’s Society says 11,600 families across the city – with 20,200 children – will be hit by the move, due to be introduced next April.
Chancellor George Osborne says cuts to the benefits budget will be off-set by the new ‘national living wage’ of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, but campaigners argue the cuts in working benefits will still leave the lowest-paid families worse off.
The House of Lords voted to delay the changes last month but Mr Osborne has refused to rule out pushing ahead with the plans.
Sunderland Citizens’ Advice Bureau advice services manager Susan White said: “Although it is not yet clear how far Tax Credits will be cut, we are concerned about the impact it will cause,” she said. “We are seeing families more and more stretched financially and unable to cope with the cuts already made through welfare reform.
“Many families are struggling to manage the basics such as rent and fuel costs. We would urge anyone who is struggling to contact us for advice and help if they find they are in debt.”
Many families are struggling to manage the basics such as rent and fuel costs. We would urge anyone who is struggling to contact us for advice and help if they find they are in debt.Susan White
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, who is shadow children’s minister, said: “These cuts are totally and utterly unjustifiable, and they are going to hurt hard- working people all across our community,” she said.
“This research paints the starkest picture yet about how much damage this policy would inflict, with over 180,000 children in the North East – including 34,900 in County Durham – living in families that will suffer as a result of the Chancellor’s plans.
“Children need as much help and support as possible, particular those in low-paid families, as this will help them best develop throughout their lives.
“Pursuing policies that could plunge them into poverty is as morally wrong as it is economically incompetent, and it is exactly what we need to be working to prevent.
“I hope the Chancellor will look at this research, and will listen to the country and change these plans before it is too late.”
Research by The Children’s Society shows how the proposed changes to tax credits would see 2.4million working families nationwide, with 4.5million children, losing hundreds or even thousands of pounds per year.
The charity is calling on the Government to abandon the cuts or at least phase any reductions in over time.
Chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Children will be the biggest losers if these deeply unfair cuts to working households go ahead.
“Parents would no doubt do what they could to shield their children from the impact. But the reality is that tax credits are vital for poorer families who work long hours to provide the basics for their children.”