My Universal Credit diary: “With six days to go, I have nothing left” Excerpt from NS
An excerpt from my article published by; The New Statesman:
My Universal Credit Diary – With six days left to go I have nothing.
I’m 30 years old, wheelchair-bound and have several complex health conditions, which means I sometimes require care. When I was on Employment and Support Allowance, I was in the “Support Group”. This meant I was classed as not fit for work.
Then I changed to Universal Credit, the new benefits system the government is rolling out. When you make the transition, regardless of any previous decisions, you are required to have a new Work Capability Assessment. This is one of the most stressful things someone with an illness must go through.
After my assessment, I was classed as “Limited Capability for Work or LCW”. In April 2017, the government removed the additional premium this included, so now I just receive the basic allowance. I am still expected to look for work, despite the advice of my doctors. I am appealing the decision. More than half of cases that go to a tribunal result in the DWP decision being overturned.
4 May 2018
It’s been two weeks since I got my last £95.35 Universal Credit (UC) payment and ten days since I last had any money; but my next payment is finally here. This is how my life goes on a fortnightly basis since I was moved from Employment and Support Allowance to Universal Credit.
Now that I have the latest payment, 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; and fuel £15. That leaves me with a grand total of a whopping £10.50 of Universal Credit for the next two weeks.
Before I write any more, I should probably explain why the amount is so low. After all, Universal Credit allowance is supposed to be £317 a month.
However when I was changed over to Universal Credit, I had to wait seven weeks for my first payment. At the same time, I also happened to be moving to a new property that suited my disability needs, and, in order to be allowed to sign the lease, the housing association required one month’s rent up front. I also had to buy myself and my sons food.
The Jobcentre advised I ask for an advance, which they happily arranged to be paid to me. I did not understand at the time that I’d be £125 a month worse off for six to 12 months.
So why do I spend what I have listed? When I originally documented this on Twitter, I received fierce criticism. Apparently, I should spend my money on more important things.
That’s why I’d like to explain the reasoning behind each payment. I have two sons I look after every weekend. One, aged three, has autism and the other was born in January this year. They are the one thing that has kept me going. My three-year-old watches TV as it keeps him calm, namely the CBeebies channel.
Broadband? Well, I live in the rural Highlands of Scotland, I have no disabled accessible bus route and no library for 15 miles. Broadband is a lifeline to me. More importantly, I have to log in to my Universal Credit account daily or face being sanctioned. So having broadband is essential.
Equally linked to my rural location, are my electricity and gas costs. While it may be summer, it still gets cold here, especially at night. When I don’t have my kids, I already switch off my heating and just lie in bed to keep warm – so I can’t cut down anymore.
I had to buy the infant formula milk, as I do not get any child-related benefits, although their mother does help when she can.
After I paid all my bills, I went on my jolly way for my weekly foodbank parcel. My local foodbank is an independent one run by the church.
At one time in February, I had no food at all for two weeks. I probably ate on less than a quarter of the days in that month. I just had nothing. I lost two and a half stone.
After that, I found out about such services, swallowed my pride and asked for help. Since January this year, my weight has dropped from 79kg to 64kg, and my hair has started falling out.
Before you go, I do not get paid for writing however if you’d like to make a donation I’d be extremely grateful. I try to give the best content to inform people of the reality of Universal Credit. You can donate via PayPal by clicking here.
Thank you to the New Statesman for allowing me to share my story through them and, for the support of everyone who reads my articles.