Universal Credit: 5 Things Families Living On The Benefit System Struggle With Every Month
Universal Credit was introduced as a benefit system that would make life easier for struggling families across the UK.
But many say the deployment left them worse off than before.
Whether it’s relying on food banks or struggling to keep up with rent payments, scaling up the benefit system has been difficult for many.
These are the five things families say you will only know if you live off the benefit system, from those who have suffered directly.
1. Families often rely on food banks
Last year, Nicola Joslin said she relied on food banks to keep her two young children, Leo and Paige, from going hungry.
Essex Live reports that the 29-year-old from Witham, who lives with her partner Rob, suddenly saw her universal credit payments halted when her partner moved in due to money he was receiving from student funding.
When we spoke to the family in the run up to Christmas, Nicola said they were doing well.
âWe get food bank vouchers every week,â she said.
“It has brought us to a point where it is seriously affecting our mental health.”
According to the family, they lived mainly on canned food and dried items for food.
âRight now, part of me wants to stop fighting and everything to fall apart,â Nicola added. âBut the other part of me is telling me to keep going because I have two kids to fight for.
“It’s trying to stay strong and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
Research by the Trussell Trust, which provides a nationwide network of food banks to people in need, has shown that food bank use is increasing dramatically in areas where Universal Credit has been deployed.
On average, 12 months after deployment, food banks see a 52% increase in demand, compared to 13% in areas with universal credit for three months or less.
2. Child care can be hard to pay
Universal credit users who have children receive additional financial support, but this does not always make their lives easier.
Katy Brazier, a 39-year-old single mother from South Ockendon, lives with her one-year-old son, Archer.
She started receiving Universal Credit at the end of 2018 and says it has already had a huge impact on her life.
âIt’s horrible,â Katy continued. âMy fridge is still empty because I’m waiting for my next payment.
“This advantage is the worst thing I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.”
Katy graduated as a level two teaching assistant while raising her son at home and hopes to work at a school, but says she couldn’t afford it until her son was in. age to start studies.
“Childcare costs are on average Â£ 50 per day,” she said. “But I looked for work because I can’t live like this.”
And it’s a similar situation for mum Louise McWilliams, 28, who was forced to give up her job because she couldn’t afford child care.
She said: âI started my application on September 24 when my partner and I separated.
âI had to go to an appointment at the employment office to be accepted. They offered me a deposit which I accepted because I would not have my first payment for five weeks.
âAt this point, I was still working, so I had put that last salary aside to pay my rent until I got my universal credit.
“I had to quit my job on September 30 because I was unable to manage the daycare.”
3. You can easily fall behind on your payments
In November, things turned from bad to worse for Nicola and her family.
Unable to pay their rent, Nicola and Rob received two letters – the first a final request for rent arrears and the second a notice to request possession of their house.
The family were told they had until December 16 to either pay the full arrears or make a substantial payment and agree to pay the balance before the notice took effect.
WATCH: What is universal credit?
If they didn’t, they would face legal action and risk losing their home.
Nicola claimed the family was entitled to full housing allowance, but their debt was too large for their monthly allowance to cover.
âThere is so much stress and worry,â she said.
“What are we going to do now? Every day we think about it. We lose track of who we talked about and what needs to be done.”
4. It can be very insulating
Being financially unstable can be a daunting and frightening reality.
Louise said: “It looks like you’re left alone and nobody cares. I probably won’t see what I should have gotten back.
“I’m just lucky to have family to help me out because some people don’t and it’s horrible to think about what they’re going through.”
When Nicola and her family were faced with a possible eviction from their home, the mother-of-two feared she might have had her children taken away.
She said at the time: “I still think I’m going to have my kids taken away because I can’t support them and it’s not my fault. That’s what the end result will end up being. probably by being if we get kicked out, they could go straight into the healthcare system.
âWe tried to keep in touch with Universal Credit. Rob tried so many times to contact them and he left messages but they never replied to him. They are waiting for me to contact them and it takes some to get their attention. .
“They never answered him once and that’s supposed to be our common demand. It looks like they threw these problems at us and told us to keep going. They left us with nothing to live on.”
5. Sometimes you only have money for rent
Katy found herself in financial difficulty after having to wait a long time to receive her first Universal Credit payment.
She claims she sometimes has to turn off the heat to save money and wrap herself up with Archer warm.
âAfter waiting seven weeks for my first payment, I only received Â£ 890,â she said. “At that time I was owed seven weeks rent, or Â£ 112 per week.
“If I had paid the full amount, I would have almost nothing left at all.
“It doesn’t cover my purchases and I have to turn off the heat and wrap ourselves up warm because I can’t afford it.”
“It’s so bad for parents and kids. It’s heartbreaking.”
Want more news?
To subscribe to our daily newsletter, enter your email address in the box at the top of this story.
To follow our latest news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter
Find our Bath Facebook page here or Somerset’s can be found here