The number of people on Universal Credit in Gateshead is at its highest level since September, new figures show.
Universal Credit is a monthly payment available to those on low incomes and those out of work.
The exact amount varies on your circumstances, but it is currently worth around £335 a month for a single person over 25.
According to provisional Department for Work and Pensions data from April 14, 21,316 people were receiving Universal Credit in Gateshead – the highest number since September.
Universal Credit has come under scrutiny in recent months, as the rising cost of basic household goods and energy has driven some to call for the rate to be increased, or for it to be made more widely accessible.
On Monday, the chief secretary to treasury, Simon Clarke, ruled out reinstating the £20-a-week uplift to the benefit, which was temporarily introduced during the pandemic – a policy recently called for by other Conservative MPs.
And last week, work and pensions minister Therese Coffee announced a £600 million plan to clamp down on benefit fraud, including plans to give new powers to DWP officers which would allow them to make arrests and seize evidence.
Figures from February show that 40% of households receiving Universal Credit in Gateshead are families with children, including 5,344 single-parent households.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity tackling poverty in the UK, has criticised the Government for not increasing the benefit in line with inflation.
A senior policy advisor at the charity, Iain Porter, said: “With inflation nearing double digits, benefits were only uprated by 3.1%, their lowest in real terms in 40 years.”
“We already know of parents skipping meals so their children can eat, families using a single lightbulb to limit electricity use, and cutting back on showers to save water.”
According to the latest figures, from March, 38% of people on Universal Credit in Gateshead were in employment.
Across Great Britain there were 5.6 million people receiving Universal Credit as of April 14, up 35,000 from January 13, but down from a peak of 6 million people in March 2021.
Provisional data shows 162,000 people started receiving the benefit in the month to April 2022, 25% more than the 122,000 starts made in the month to December.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit provides a vital safety net to 5.6 million people and we want everyone to get the support to which they’re entitled.
“We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty."