How Universal Credit can cause unnecessary emotional strain

25th July 2019

Emma (not her real name) visited Wetherby Foodbank Centre a couple of weeks ago when she found herself needing help after applying for Universal Credit.

A single working mum with two young children. Due to a low income, Emma was receiving help through working tax credit. When, however, she was told that she would be better off on Universal Credit she decided to apply. She looked on the website and thought it looked straight forward. The following day, however, reality hit her hard, when she discovered that the moment she applied, the government stopped her working tax credits as well as her childcare support. She just thought that they would simply switch her over from one scheme to the next.

Emma said, ”I panicked as soon as I realised that I wouldn’t have enough money to live on”.

What angered her the most was the fact that there was no warning on the website that this would happen before she applied. If she had been told that this was going to happen she could have saved some money in order to prepare for it. She also didn’t realise that she would have to wait five weeks for her first Universal Credit payment.

She ended up having to take out an advance loan from the jobcentre, which she will have to pay back in installments. Plus she will also have to pay off her rent arrears and council tax. For Emma, this will mean that for the next few months she is going to have to try and continue to live on a lower income until all her debts have been paid. She just feels that she has been forced into debt.

”It’s the fact that they expect people to go without any money,” says Emma.

Being a single mum is stressful enough without adding this financial strain. She has even been struggling to pay for fuel for her car, which she needs for her job.

She was really nervous about coming to the food bank and her pride, initially, stopped her from coming.

”Now that I have been and seen how lovely, welcoming and reassuring everyone is with me, I feel so much better.”

(Emma gave Wetherby and District Foodbank permission to tell her story.)

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