A PREGNANT mum of three has been going without food to ensure her kids are fed after a fake loan firm signed her up for Universal Credit and stole £400 of her cash.
Mandie Whiting*, 26, from Buxton in Derbyshire has been surviving on food banks and handouts from friends and family since mid-April.
Mandie Whiting had her benefits stopped when fraudsters took out Universal Credit in her name
“It’s been really hard,” she told The Sun. “I’ve been referred to food banks and I’m currently 20-weeks pregnant.
“I’ve been missing meals just to feed the kids.
“My mum has helped out as much as she can but she’s on benefits herself and has a disabled daughter and a husband with cancer so there’s only so much she can do.”
The problems began four weeks ago when Mandie was desperate to replace her cooker after it broke, leaving her relying on microwave food and meals from friends and family.
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.
Already scraping by on just £180 a week in benefits to feed herself and her kids, aged nine, five, and 10 months, the stay-at-home single mum didn’t have any spare cash to buy a new cooker.
She left her job as a convenience store manager after her second daughter was born.
So she searched for a payday lender on Google. She was rejected for all the loans she applied for but then she used a broker, which said it might be able to help.
It was then that Mandie got a phone call offering her a £1,500 loan which she could repay in monthly instalments, so she said yes.
She can’t remember the name of the firm that offered her the cash but says they took all of her personal details, including information from her driving licence, which made then seem “really legitimate”.
The agreed £1,500 was then paid into her bank account, with the firm taking a hefty upfront £400 administration fee.
The mum of three has been been forced to use food banks
But the next Monday, Mandie’s weekly income support, housing benefit, child tax credit and child benefit payments were stopped.
When she rang the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it told her these had ceased as she’d switched to Universal Credit and had taken out an advance loan.
Mandie says she never wanted Universal Credit and adds that she never took out an advance loan under the scheme.
She believes the so-called loan company took this out in her name, although it’s unclear how it was able to pay in £1,500 when the maximum advance loan you can get is £812.
The mum has been fighting with the DWP even since to get the advance loan cancelled and to get her benefits reinstated.
She says it’s left her around £1,100 out of pocket so far because of missed benefits payments and because of the £400 admin fee the firm took – which her bank hasn’t been able to recoup from the scammers.
“I’m worried every day about how I’m going to survive,” said Mandie. “But I’ve just got to do it.”
Mandie is also now behind on rent payments as these are supposed to be paid directly by Universal Credit to landlords but she hasn’t had a Universal Credit payment yet.
The Sun launched its Make Universal Credit Work campaign where we have highlighted the problems with the new system.
We’ve called for the five-week wait for cash to be reduced to two and asked for childcare funding to be paid upfront to parents.
We also want people to keep more of what they earn by lowering the taper rate and increasing the work allowance.
Mandie is worried about how the family are going to survive
Things have got so bad that Mandie’s got her local MP, Labour’s Ruth George, looking into the situation.
Ms George said: “It’s disgraceful that Mandie – and her children – are being made to suffer twice for being a victim of fraud.
“Anyone who has a Universal Credit account opened by a fraudster could lose thousands more every year if the Government won’t allow their previous benefits to be reinstated.
“I’m disgusted that the DWP refused to allow Mandie to do this so I’ve called on the secretary of state to review both Mandie’s case and its policy to apply a principle of fairness to victims of crime.
“Sadly there’ll always be criminals seeking to exploit vulnerable people and our benefits system.
“This case shows Universal Credit isn’t immune so the Government must have a fair policy to protect victims who will be among our poorest families and suffer most from any loss.”
A DWP spokesperson told The Sun: “We are investigating this case urgently.”
ExclusiveMUM’S AGONY Universal Credit delay forced me into B&B where my baby got covered in COCAINE ‘SLOW GENOCIDE’ Dying man left with just £15 a week to eat after DWP ruled him fit to work UNIVERSAL HELL Universal Credit errors are pushing people in to debt, charity warns CREDIT FLAW What’s Universal Credit and who is eligible to claim it? ON THE BRINK Food bank usage hits record high as charity blames Universal Credit
A leaked memo earlier this month “shows the Government is launching PR campaign to defend Universal Credit”.
But Amber Rudd has vowed to slash the maximum time Brits have their benefits sanctioned for – from three years down to six months.
*Name has been changed.
Struggling mum tries to feed family with £1.80 a day after 7-week Universal Credit delay left her skint
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team? Email us at email@example.com