Contrary to popular belief, life on benefits is not expensive holidays and fancy tech. It’s grim. Especially since the Conservative governments flagship welfare reform that is: Universal Credit.
It’s Friday 4th of May, two weeks since I got my last £95.35 Universal Credit (UC) payment, 10 days since I last had any money and finally my next payment is here. This is how my life goes on a fortnightly basis since I was moved from Employment and Support Allowance, (ESA) to Universal Credit, (UC).
Now my next payment is here it’s time to watch most of it disappear on bills.
- TV Licence £12.56
- Broadband £15.99
- Baby Milk £9.50
- Electricity and Gas £31.80
- Fuel £15.
That leaves me with a grand total of a whopping, £10.50 for the next two weeks.
Now before I go on, I better clear a few things up. Why is the amount I get so low, I thought basic the Universal Credit allowance was £317 a month?
That would normally be the case however, when I was changed over to UC I had to wait seven weeks for my first payment and I also happened to just be moving to a new property which suited my disability needs. To be allowed to sign the lease the Housing Association required one month’s rent up front, not to mention I also had to buy myself and my sons food.
The jobcentre advised I asked for an advance which they happily arranged to be paid to me. It was not explained that I’d be £125 a month less off for 6 to 12 months.
Who am I?
First of all, I am no saint, I have never claimed to be either. We all have a past but it’s the future that we can change. I’m 30 years old, I’m wheelchair bound and have several complex health conditions which sometimes require me needing cared for. When I was on Employment and Support Allowance I was in the “Support Group”. This meant I was classed as not fit for work.
When you change to UC regardless of previous decisions you are required to have a new Work Capability Assessment. One of the most stressful things someone with an illness must go through.
After having mine I was classed as: “Limited Capability for Work or LCW”, since April 2017 the government removed he additional premium this included so, I get just the basic allowance. I still must look for work despite my doctors advising the DWP that I am not fit too. I am however appealing this decision.
Why pay for that?
So why do I spend what I have listed? When I originally documented this on Twitter, I came under fierce criticism from mainly; Conservative and right wing voters, mainly.
Apparently, I should be grateful I get anything, some even saying I was getting too much. Of course my most loyal troll thought that eugenics the best idea for sick and disabled people. Don’t I get all the nice ones.
That’s why I’d like to explain the reasoning behind each payment.
I have two sons I have every weekend. One aged three who has autism and the other born in January of this year. They are the one thing that have kept me going. My three-year-old watches TV as it keeps him calm, namely the Cbeebies channel, as I’m using a BBC service, I pay my TV Licence. Many people object to it but, I don’t have the right to chose which Laws I follow so I pay it.
Broadband well, I live in the rural Highland of Scotland, I have no disabled accessible bus route and no library for 15 miles. Broadband is a lifeline to me but more importantly, I have to login to my UC account daily or face being sanctioned so having broadband is essential.
Equally related to my location are my electricity and gas costs. While it may be summer, it still gets cold here, especially at night. I already switch off my heating when I don’t have my kids and just lie in bed to keep warm instead, so I can’t cut down anymore.
I happened to need infant formula milk this cycle, so I had to get this, as I don’t get any child related benefits, although their mother does help when she can.
The fuel is for my Motability car which must do me a month if possible, however I can’t drive just now so that was a waste, but you can’t foresee the future.
The Daily Grind to keep going.
So, after I paid all my bills I went to collect my weekly foodbank parcel. My local foodbank is an independent one run by the church. I have gone 2 weeks on some occasions without food before. Eventually I swallowed my pride and asked for help.
These services are under appreciated and underfunded. 90 % of all foodbank donations come from generous members of the public .Not a penny of help from government, with some ministers even saying; it’s good that we have them.
Onto May the 5th and I need milk for myself and my three-year-old, so I get that for £1.10 and because my son has been good I get him a Fredo chocolate bar for 25p. In just two days I’ve gone from £95 to £9.15. It is pretty demoralising knowing you can’t treat your kids, take them out or even buy them presents on their birthdays, but you have to stay strong for them.
Just three days after my payment, and I need to spend again. I need more milk so that’s another £1.10 but I also ran out of sugar £0.59, and coffee £1.99. So, I’m already at £5.47 and still have 12 days until my next payment. My kids went home so I switched off the heating and just go to my bed, as I usually do.May 7th was a day spent in bed with some rice for lunch and dinner, I need to save my food parcel for the kids as I only get one for a single person.
On May 8th I decided I wanted to be able to make myself some sandwiches, so I brought bread for 45p and a small block of cheese for £1.72. This left me with £3.30. I must admit that I felt bad after buying it as, I shouldn’t have wasted the money.
I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression and my current situation does unfortunately get to me sometimes. I have been far more depressed since coming onto Universal Credit.
This includes an attempt on my life in March this year as, I just couldn’t cope with the situation I was in anymore, I went through with the attempt but called 999 after realising how stupid I was and was incredibly lucky to survive.. My weight has gone from 79kgs to 64kgs since January of this year, my hair has been falling out lately and my teeth have become loose. 5 days a week I am just in my bed alone.
May the 10th saw me drop to £2.20 remaining as, I had gotten a bit over zealous with the milk, but being trapped in a house all day does limit what you can do, especially if you can’t physically do much yourself as well. The fact I am feeling guilty because I brought milk shows how desperate things have become.
What needs to happen though?
The government needs to act to alleviate the crisis the system is in before rolling it out any further.
Foodbank use up 52% in Full Service areas according to Foodbank Charity Trussell Trusts figures, 70% of people entering debt as a direct result of the UC waiting period and an increase of 46% the occurrence of mental health conditions. You can read more about this in my previous post by following clicking here.
The governments has failed to act after:
- repeated warnings from DWP staff
- evidence it is negatively affecting peoples health and creating poverty
- a vote by the Commons last year calling for the UC roll-out to stop,which has been ignored
- countless constituents contacting their elected representatives for help
- There have been deaths, which although not caused by UC, a link could be made to it, such as malnutrition due to poor diet or hypothermia due to lack of heating. Not to mention people whom have taken their own lives.
It is now my humble opinion bordering on negligence.
It seems that it’s more important to steamroll this system in than stop it. Why? Because that would look like a failure. However a quote I recently saw could not be more accurate.
“Errors do not cease to be errors simply because they’re ratified into law.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
My plan going forward
What do I plan to do? As you may have noticed I am very passionate about raising awareness of food poverty and the amazing job foodbanks doing in helping people. I am only going to amplify this message. Not only because they deserve our thanks, but they actively try to tell the government that Universal Credit is not fit for purpose.
Foodbanks are the people on the ground along with agencies like the Citizens Advice Bureau, who hear the everyday unfiltered problems people are having. I know this, as I find it easier to talk to a foodbank employee than my work coach.
The Trussell Trust carried out some intensive research to try to find out the problems people are facing, they didn’t have too, but they did. They along with others are key to driving change.
The foodbank challenge is still going well but they still need our help, as you will have seen on my Twitter timeline I actively put out an appeal for several foodbanks who had run out.
I really need everyone’s support in keeping this going. Raising their profile to help them get donations because they have run out of food also raises awareness that there’s a problem.
I am attempting to get some more mainstream media coverage but if anyone knows of anyone who can help please contact me using the contact me form.
I don’t like asking, but I could really do with your help so I can carry on, escalate this campaign and try to make a positive contribution. If you feel you can give me even a little please feel free to donate below, regardless, I’m not giving up.