I was contacted by Ali as she wished to share her story about how Universal Credit has affected her. I asked her to type it out. So here it is, unedited and in full with her permission.
Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read about my account of being a Universal Credit claimant.
I think like many others, I had an idolised view of life on benefits when I was working.Was I the mug putting in 40 hours a week and struggling to make ends meet while they got to have a lie in and got things paid for them?
This view changed rapidly when one day I stood up to my boss and his inappropriate behaviour. I soon found myself in the jobcentre being told all about this wonderful life changing benefit called universal credit I was applying for and how it consolidated housing and benefit into one easy payment.
Little did I know, that by life changing, they meant I would soon end up begging family and friends for help and being forced to leave my home.
Initially they tell you that you’ll have to wait 5 weeks for your first payment, but you can have a advance (loan) in the meantime. So of course I accepted the advance and thought it would be plain sailing.
It begins to go wrong
After a couple of weeks I was asked to go in with my tenancy agreement, they then lost this 3 times, delaying any housing payments.
I was then told I was being sanctioned, why? Well apparently my boss offering me money to sleep with him isn’t a valid reason to leave my job.
Because of this, despite my claim starting in October I received no payments until mid January. I had to really heavily on my family and friends for food and money for electric to stay warm.
My first three payments did not include any housing money so I was forced into arrears and eventually eviction.
With a huge help from my mum, as social housing and council told me I was not a priority, I found a new flat. It’s in a new town where I know no one, but I’m thankful I have a roof over my head.
My work coach said not to worry about a thing, I’d get my rent paid and grants for furniture.
Three months later I’ve received none of these but I’m still fighting heavily for them.
Left with virtually nothing
So, I have a monthly income of £518, sounds great right? It’s not. My bills are as follows:
- Rent – £435
- Gas and electric – £30
- Phone – £29
That leaves me with, £33 a month to buy food and toiletries.
The reality of this has meant going days without a shower, a hot meal or any meal for that matter.Sitting in public places like library’s just to get warm.
Stealing toilet roll from pubs and public toilets, almost stealing a burger straight from a mans hand because I hadn’t eaten for six days.
Struggling to carry on
I sit in an empty flat with only the walls to stare at, not even so much as a radio for company because I’ve had to sell virtually everything I own.
Probably the worst thing has been attending job interviews when I haven’t been able to wash my hair or brush my teeth, would you hire that person?
All I want to do is live day to day life normally, be able to make myself a cup of tea or a sandwich without having to weigh up how long I need that bread and milk to last.
I considered drastic measures
There have been many days where I have sat and weighed up the options between somehow getting myself put in jail, because then I’d at least be warm and fed or just ending it all completely.
It’s extremely hard to keep going when everywhere you turn for help you’re told you’re not a priority.
If you feel low at any point you can contact Samaritans for confidential advice and support on 116 123 24 hours a day.
I know I’m only one of many in this situation and many are worse off than me. I am just one of the many in destitution across the UK.
All I ask of you is not to be so quick to judge someone on benefits, and please support Alex’s foodbank challenge, he is doing incredible work to help get these stocked up and they save lives!
Everyone deserves to be able to eat.
Finally may I say, thank you for reading my article, my local MP Pete Wishart is helping me deal with this, so hopefully it will be resolved soon.