People and politics correspondent @ NickMartinSKY
Single dad Gareth Gaukroger has brought his two sons into a community center in Blackpool.
The boys sit down and tuck into a yoghurt and a chocolate muffin.
Gareth is here because he cannot afford to feed his children and this is his only option. He’s desperate.
The 34 year-old has been looking for a job, but there is no one else around to look after his kids and he cannot afford childcare, he says.
Gareth is trapped in a cycle of poverty that means he often has to turn to others for help.
He said: “I bring them in here when there’s no food at home. While they keep the kids occupied they give me food and I’m able to take that home and make sure we can eat for the next few days .
“We have good days and bad days, it’s up and down. I really want to work but need to look after the kids too – I can’t do both at the moment.”
About 40% of the children in this area of Blackpool are living in poverty. Eight of the 10 most deprived areas in England are in this town.
In a church hall in the South Shore area, hot meals are being served to a group of people.
Mark Butcher runs this soup kitchen.
“Most of the people here aren ‘ t homeless, they just can’t afford to eat, “said the former addict turned evangelist.
” People are telling us that single-hour contracts, a drop in work because the summer season is over and changes to welfare are causing loads of problems.
“Universal Credit is shredding people lives here and we see the effects every day.”
The Conservatives say they want to help lift people out of poverty by raising the level at which people have to pay national insurance.
It is claimed it could benefit (million people.)
But Labor have set their sights onUniversal Credit, the welfare reform they say has been “catastrophic” in deprived communities like Blackpool.
Universal Credit replaced six benefits by merging them into one payment and it has been hugely controversial. Labor says it will be scrapped.
Gareth has been on Universal Credit for the past two years.
He said: “They don’t tell you how bad it’s going to be when they move you onto it. They make you wait for five weeks, then give you four weeks payment after that.
“You fall behind so they give you a loan. So you end up in debt to them within the first two months.
“I want to work. I don’t want my kids to live off benefits. But I cannot see a way out of this right now.
“All I can do is wait for the season to pick back up again and hope to get a job which can work around my kids.
“I’m voting based on what I want for my kids. This is not the life I want for my kids and so I’d be persuaded to vote Labor for that reason. I don’t have any other option. I’m at rock bottom. “
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