CHURCH leaders from a wide range of denominations across the region have called on the Chancellor to make the Universal Credit uplift permanent.
Clerics, including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Salvation Army and Methodists, have made their appeal in a joint letter, written as thousands of people are due to be hit with a deduction in finances when the £20 uplift ends on the autumn.
The letter to Rishi Sunak says: "Chancellor you have had to confront deep challenges. We recognise that you have made some very tough decisions and thank you for the work done on the furlough scheme and the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.
"Both have been hugely significant in helping the nation through the pandemic.
"In relation to Universal Credit we are deeply concerned at the impact the proposal to now cut the £20 uplift will have on the poorest in our nation. This will come at the very point when the furlough scheme ends. It will also coincide with significant increased costs for electricity and gas just when the weather begins to turn."
They add: "We note that this concern has been expressed widely by all organisations who work with the poorest, and those who monitor the impact of such policies on them.
"As Church Leaders in the North East we are aware through our churches on the ground serving communities of the continuing struggles faced by large numbers of families.
"Many of these are not unemployed but in low paid work and need the additional income provided by Universal Credit. We accept that this is a major cost to the nation as a whole but believe that those in most need must be protected by the nation.
"We urge you to make the £20 uplift permanent to ensure that UC really does achieve its purpose."
The signatories are:
The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham (see photo)
The Right Reverend Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle
The Right Reverend Mark Wroe, Bishop of Berwick
The Right Reverend Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough and Chair of CSAN
The Right Reverend Robert Byrne, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle
Doctor Mark Bonnington, Independent Churches Representative
Reverend John Claydon, Regional Minister, Northern Baptist Association
Reverend Richard Andrew, Chair, Darlington Methodist District
Reverend Stephen Lindridge, Chair, Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District
Reverend Dave Herbert, Moderator, Northern Synod of the United Reformed Church
Major David Burns, Divisional Commander, Salvation Army
Reverend Paul Revill, Regional Minister, Northern Baptist Association