SINGLE mum Carly Smith has been forced to turn down her dream job because of Universal Credit – and is now more in debt than ever.
The 26-year-old began claiming the benefit after moving to a new area with her two daughters, aged eight and four.
2 Carly Smith is devastated to have been forced to turn down her dream job because she can’t afford upfront childcare costsCredit: Andrew McCaren
But far from being the fresh start she wanted, heartbroken Carly has made the devastating decision to reject a job offer as an NHS Support Worker because she can’t afford childcare costs.
Under Universal Credit rules, claimants have to front childcare fees and be reimbursed a month later – something Carly can’t afford.
“Childcare is the only issue – if I can get that covered upfront I’ll be fine,” she tells The Sun Online.
“I’m trying really hard and it feels like there’s a barrier holding me back – it’s really stressful.
Struggling mum tries to feed family with £1.80 a day after 7-week Universal Credit delay left her skint
“I’m devastated and heartbroken. It has been my dream job to work in the NHS for a long time.
“I already had my uniform, I’ve been so excited about it and the kids were excited too.
“I love my kids but it would just give me a bit more reason to get up in the morning.
“I’ve been a single mum for a couple of years and want to show them I can work and be a mum.
“I just want to make a better life for us. It shouldn’t be this hard.”
The Sun is calling for parents to get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare costs upfront instead of in arrears as part of its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
This would make it easier for people like Carly to get back into work.
Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.
The mum thought things were finally looking up when she was offered the NHS job.
The apprentice role paid £580 a month for three months before going up to £1,215 a month.
It would allow the single mum to earn qualifications and secure a better, higher paying job in the future.
But last week Carly had to turn it down because she couldn’t afford childcare costs.
As the role was full time, her children would need to go to a childminder in the morning before nursery as well as after school, costing £1,191 a month.
But her Universal Credit payment is just £1,152 a month – meaning there is no way she could front the first month’s fees and still pay her rent and bills.
2 The mum was left so skint when she first moved onto Universal Credit she had to rely on a food bankCredit: Andrew McCaren
‘I’m so stressed – I just want to work’
“Money would be tight, but I’d have been in a better position,” she explains.
“I want to get back into work, so I can earn my own money and be a good role model to my kids.”
For now, it means that Carly is back on the job search but she doesn’t understand why it’s so hard.
“Everything we get we spend. There’s nothing left over at the end of the month,” she says.
“I keep on top of all my finances and I make it work so my kids don’t have to worry – but now I’m trying to get back into work and I’m being held back.
“It’s just so upsetting and stressful, as I want to be out of my situation and making a better life for me and my kids.”
‘Using a food bank was humiliating’
Carly was also affected by the five-week wait for her first payment – which The Sun demands is cut to two weeks to make things easier for families.
Having no money for over a month forced the mum into debt, and she ended up replying on food banks and hand outs from friends just to survive.
“I have sleepless nights, I’m constantly worrying about it. I’ve been feeling quite depressed,” she tells The Sun.
“To ask for help is quite embarrassing.
“We had to use a food bank twice and that was really hard. It was demoralising. I’ve never been that low before.
“I’ve never been in debt before in my life until Universal Credit. I’ve never had a problem with money before.”
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.
Carly is desperate to move on with her life, but feels the odds are stacked against her.
“I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for a long time now, but my daughter is nearly old enough to go to nursery and I don’t want to be at home any more” she said.
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A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting families to improve their lives and with Universal Credit working parents can claim back up to 85 per cent of eligible childcare costs, compared to 70 per cent under the old system.
“If someone has accepted an offer of paid work, they are also eligible to be paid these costs for the month prior to starting work.
“This is in addition to an entitlement of up to 30 hours of free childcare.”
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements- If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren’t enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
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