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Universal Credit claimants triple in some areas of Camden

Thousands of people are 'struggling to survive'

19 February, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Abi Odujoko handing food to hungry families in Camden Town

PEOPLE in Camden are struggling to survive, a food bank manager has warned, as it was revealed the number of people needing benefits has more than doubled.

Some of the upward trend in claims were in areas of the borough traditionally seen as more affluent like Belsize Park and Hampstead.

But areas with the most claimants before the Covid crisis still have the highest numbers, including Somers Town, Kentish Town and Kilburn.

By the end of 2020, there were almost 20,000 people in Camden on Universal Credit compared with just over 7,000 last January.

Abiodun Odujoko, manager at the Camden Town food bank, said: “Even before the pandemic there were people both on benefits and in employment who couldn’t manage to pay for their rent, heating and food. But there are so many more now who just cannot get by.

Finance chief councillor Richard Olszewski 

“Food banks are here in case of emergency, and before the pandemic that’s how people would use us, but now that need is constantly there, and there’s people returning week after week unable to get out of the cycle of not having enough money to put food on the table.”

A cross-party group of MPs are urging the government to extend the £20 a week Universal Credit Covid top-up, which has supported millions of families across the UK.

Town Hall finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski said: “I am acutely aware of the responsibility I and other councillors have in dealing with these issues and we’re doing every­thing we can including distributing 140 tonnes of food last year, giving thousands council tax relief, working with the voluntary sector and working on employability schemes, like our good work project that’s just started.

“What’s imperative is that the government continues the £20 uplift in benefits otherwise it’s going to have a significant impact on families in Camden.”

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