EX-PUB LANDLADY Sarah Jane Doyle has been forced to steal sachets of sugar and milk from her local McDonald’s as she’s so cash strapped on Universal Credit.
Unable to afford the most basic of supplies, the 37-year-old, who lives in Bradford, Yorkshire, has been forced into debt and has even had to pawn her phone and tablet – the only contact she has with the outside world.
4 Sarah Jane says Universal Credit should be helping her, not battering her down
She’s been unable to work for the past two years while struggling with her mental health and is barely able to leave the house – in fact the only times she ventures out are to buy food.
“Sometimes my cousin takes me to McDonald’s and I fill up my pockets,” Sarah Jane told The Sun.
“It means I don’t have to stress about running out of these things or have to buy them from shops.
“It’s pathetic, but that’s life under Universal Credit.
“I find it hard to go to food banks so there have been times when I’ve gone days with no food.
4 Sarah Jane says there have been days where she’s gone without foodCredit: Bethany Clarke
“I haven’t been to a hair salon in well over a year. I cut my own hair.”
Sarah Jane has struggled financially from day one on Universal Credit. She was so short of cash during the wait for her first payment she had to pawn some of her most precious posessions just to get by – she got £40 for her phone, £60 for her tablet and £80 for her TV.
She’s only managed to retrieve the tablet for about a fortnight since Christmas – it costs £86 each time but she needs it for all her health and financial admin.
“I’ve not been able to get the telly or phone back. As a mental health sufferer the background noise from the TV is especially important to me as it’s calming.
“And the phone has all of my mental health support group contacts on it, which I’ve lost.”
‘If it wasn’t for mum giving me money, I wouldn’t be here’
Sarah Jane first began claiming the benefit in August last year when she moved home and had to transfer from the old benefits system to Universal credit – as soon as she did her existing £1,942 a month benefits stopped.
She couldn’t pay her rent, got behind on bills and ran out of food.
This is the reality for thousands of people moving on to the new benefit system, as The Sun has highlighted in our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
We want the wait for cash reduced to two weeks, down from five, and the taper rate – which reduces benefit entitlement as earnings rise – cut from 63p of every £1 earned to 50p.
And we’re also calling on the government to pay towards childcare costs upfront instead of in arrears. These changes would go a long way to help hard-working families across the country.
4 If it wasn’t for friends and family Sarah Jane says she’d struggle to get byCredit: Bethany Clarke
Sarah Jane did get an advance from Universal Credit but she now repays the £1,000 loan to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) out of her monthly payments, leaving her short of cash.
And delayed payment of another £600 she was owed made things even worse.
“For the first two months I woke up every day in tears,” Sarah Jane said.
“I had set up direct debits to cover gas or electricity, expecting my payments to come through before they kicked in, only to find they didn’t.
“This left me in a terrible mess with the bank.
“If it wasn’t for friends and family helping me, and mum propping me up with money when I really need it for gas or electricity, I literally wouldn’t be here.”
Sarah Jane was working as a pub landlady but then she got sick two years ago and had to stop working.
She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, severe anxiety and panic attacks and now barely leaves her home.
Sarah Jane says desperately wants to work again but at the moment her mental health is preventing her.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit WorkUNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
“My mental health is fragile and I rely on my cousin to help me out when he can.
“He’ll accompany me to the shops, which can be a frightening experience because of my anxiety.
“Even answering the door can be a challenge, especially if I’m not expecting anyone. That’s why I shop online because you can track deliveries and I can prepare myself.”
‘Universal credit is battering me’
Sarah Jane says she finds life on Universal Credit soul destroying. “I haven’t got what you’d call a fulfilling life.
“What other people take for granted is beyond my reach, and I so wish it wasn’t.
“I’d love to have a job, mix with people, have money to look after myself. But that’s not been possible for a long time.”
4 The 37-year-old has struggled to work because of mental health problemsCredit: Bethany Clarke
“Universal Credit is far from a support system. This system should be helping me, not battering me. It’s scary.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Ms Doyle’s £600 back payment was not as a result of an error, but made following the decision of her Work Capability Assessment as part of our usual process.
“Ms Doyle’s work coach is in frequent contact to support her, and she has been offered both budgeting and mental health support.
“We have set up Alternative Payment Arrangements for Ms Doyle in order to support her needs.”
But sadly Sarah Jane isn’t the only one struggling to get by on Universal Credit.
UNIVERSAL SUFFERING Millions on Universal Credit forced to use food banks by five-week wait MUM SHAME I’m so poor on Universal Credit I’m begging strangers for cash to feed my toddler CommentHEIDI ALLEN Brexit paralysis has failed Universal Credit Brits for years & they need change ‘NO ONE CARES’ Mum says son, 37, was hounded over Universal Credit before killing himself GRAVE CONCERNS Five-week Universal Credit delay ‘pushes terminally ill people into debt’
Throughout the The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign, we’ve also told you about mum-of-two Kylie Goodyear, who is living in a caravan after being evicted because Universal Credit delays meant she couldn’t pay rent.
As is dad, Martin Weaver, who ran out of cash during his four-week wait.
And mum Mel Lock was forced to wait a whopping nine weeks for her first Universal Credit payment.
Struggling mum tries to feed family with £1.80 a day after 7-week Universal Credit delay left her skint
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