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Scrapping Covid universal credit boost set to hit poor health areas the hardest



By ending the additional £1,000 a year boost to universal credit, new research finds that the mental and physical health of thousands will be damaged.

The Health Foundation predict that areas of the UK such as Blackpool, East London, and Wolverhampton, where people already struggle with worsened health, will be hardest hit by these cuts.

Payments will be reduced back down by £80 a month, or £20 a week, to the original amount pre- pandemic, and further support has also been ruled out by the government.

Baroness Stedman-Scott, the work and pensions minister, has revealed that there has been no assessment of the impact the scrapping of the universal credit boost will have on the public.

“The department has not completed an impact assessment of the ending of the temporary uplift, as it was introduced as a temporary measure.” The minister recalls.

“This is because we have no obligation to conduct an impact assessment as we’re returning to business as usual as the temporary Covid uplift is expiring as it was always intended to do.” She continues.

This news, as well as Boris Johnson’s plans to increase tax and national insurance contributions by 1.25%, will have a massive impact on the health of the public, especially with winter just around the corner.

Charities such as Save the Children have spoken on the subject, with director Dan Paskins saying, “this time of year is already challenging, with parents having to pay more for heating, school uniforms and winter clothes.”

The Health Foundation charity say that these additional stressors will add an extra challenge for those residing in poorer areas of the UK such as Blackpool, where over the course of one year, the average loss of benefits will be £283 per person.

According to the charity, 7 out of the 10 worst affected UK council areas have a healthy life expectancy below 60 years, and “the removal of such a vital chunk of income (will) contribute to rising mental ill health.”

Marcus Rashford, footballer and anti- poverty advocate has spoken up publicly on the issue, tweeting “we should be focusing efforts on developing a sustainable long- term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.”

The DWP’s latest figures show that there were 5 million households receiving universal credit as of the 8th of July 2021, a staggering number of families due to be affected by the boost cut.

There has been a variation of academic studies that define a link between poor mental health and universal credit.

Research at Newcastle and Teesside universities has established that UC should be deemed a serious threat to public health, with a number of claimants saying that dealing with the system has been so stressful that they had considered suicide.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana has recognised the cut to universal credit as “an attack on the working class from the party of the super- rich,” and has debated in parliament to defend the members of her constituency affected by the cut.

When asking the public to get in touch with her regarding how the cut would have an impact on their daily lives, Sultana reported that the responses were “truly heart-breaking.”

However, the Labour MP is seemingly outnumbered, with another government spokesperson saying “as announced by the chancellor… the uplift to universal credit was always temporary.

“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.”

Director of health at the Health Foundation, Jo Bibby, speaks up to say that “the pandemic is not yet over and if we are to avoid long- term scars, it is vital that we maintain this support on which so many families rely.”

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Supermarkets limit sales of fruit and vegetables



Asda and Morrisons are putting limits on purchases of some fruit and vegetables as supermarkets face shortages of fresh produce.

Asda said it was capping sales of items such as tomatoes, peppers and lettuce at three each per customer.

Morrisons said limits of two on products like cucumbers would be introduced at stores from Tuesday.

Pictures of empty supermarket shelves have been circulating on social media, after shoppers found it hard to get some items in recent days.

The shortages – which are affecting Ireland too – are largely the result of extreme weather in Spain and north Africa, where floods, snow and hail have affected harvests.

During this time of year, a significant proportion of what the UK consumes usually comes from those regions.

The shortages are expected to last “a few weeks” until the UK growing season begins and retailers find alternative sources of supply, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

Andrew Opie, director of Food and Sustainability at the trade group, added that supermarkets are “adept at managing supply chain issues” and were working with farmers to ensure the continued supply of fresh produce.

As well as tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, Asda said it was also limiting sales of salad bags, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflowers and raspberry punnets.

“Like other supermarkets, we are experiencing sourcing challenges on some products that are grown in southern Spain and north Africa,” a spokesperson said.

Morrisons said as well that cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers were affected at its shops.

However, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer currently do not have limits in place.

In the winter months the UK imports around 95% of its tomatoes and 90% of its lettuces, most of it from Spain and north Africa, according to the BRC.

Southern Spain has been suffering unusually cold weather and in Morocco crop yields have been affected by floods, while storms have led to ferries being delayed or cancelled.

Meanwhile in the UK and Netherlands, farmers have cut back on their use of greenhouses to grow winter crops due to higher electricity prices.

Have you noticed empty shelves in supermarkets this week?

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Best of North East

Doner Kebab Toastie Introduced at Tynemouth Market



Mardi Gras No. 58 have made the ‘Doner Delish’ a permanent addition to their toastie menu.

This mouth-watering meal has been unveiled by a food stall at Tynemouth Market, where it “went down a storm” with customers on its debut weekend at the end of last month. So much so, the husband and wife duo Nicki Thompson and Dean Thompson, have made it a permanent addition to their Tynemouth Market food stall.

The couple set up their Mardi Gras No.58 food stall at the popular market in October last year, specialising in sourdough toasties “with a twist”.

The stall strives to serve up “quirky and modern” toasties  like the customer favourite Popeye Pesto, a toastie filled with pesto-coated chicken, spinach and cheese. Or for those who like a kick, there’s also the Buffalo Badboy, made of spicy beef mince with jalapenos and fresh chillies.

Mardi Gras has already taken inspiration from other popular takeaway dishes, with their Pizza Pepperoni toastie sandwiching pizza toppings between two sourdough slices.

Packed with doner meat, crispy red onion, gooey melted cheese, and finished off with garlic and chilli sauce, Nicki and Dean urged people via their Facebook page: “Don’t knock it until you try it!”.

The couple have hinted at toastie fans to “watch this space” for more indulgent inventions from Mardi Gras No. 58 coming soon!

What takeaway delight would you like to see in toastie form next? We’d love to try a take on the Teesside parmo!

Would you try the ‘Doner Delish’?

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Karen’s On Tour: The Rudest Restaurant in The World is about to pop up in Newcastle!



Karen's Kitchen on Tour - England, UK

Don’t you dare ask for the manager…

Karen’s On Tour has a simple mission, to be as rude to as many people as possible allover Great Britain. They guarantee the worst service in Europe whilst ensuring that the New York style food is great.

“Once you’re in a Karen’s”, said Ryan Blackburn, Managing Director of  Karen’s On Tour, “you’ll not be thinking about strikes, Brexit or electricity costs, you’ll just be wanting to survive!”

The company behind Karen’s Diners currently has multiple stores across Australia, the UK and America, including Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Birmingham (Grand Central)

“Customers would need to expect plenty of sass, great food, and a sprinkle of bad attitude”, said Ryan, ”so don’t expect special treatment as it’s all about Karen, and she won’t be taking any nonsense!

All will be able to have fun and wind the staff up to unleash their full inner Karen potential”.

Karen's On Tour

Newcastle Karen’s can expect a full menu with “In your face” burgers, sweet treats, thick shakes and, of course, the Karen inspired cocktail menu. There is even some Karen’s merch on offer!  Vegetarians, vegans & non alcoholics will all be catered for but don’t expect Karen to be happy about it.

The North East Updates team makes it’s first exclusive visit to Karen’s On Tour on Wed 18th January to film some unsuspecting guests! Karen’s on tour opens fully to the public on in Febuary 2023, who will you bring?

Video coming soon to the North East Updates channel! Subscribe here:

Don’t miss out on this great food but awful service! Whatever you do, don’t ask for a refund!

Booking essential

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