A SINGLE mum “was told to leave her eight-year-old daughter home ALONE whilst she worked by a Universal Credit adviser” after saying she couldn’t afford childcare fees upfront.
Alana Tait, 32, had no choice but to accept the job as a nursing assistant even though the crippling childcare costs have caused her debts to spiral out of control.
RLNA Alana Tait was told to leave her daughter, Abby, 8, home alone so she could work
Staff also suggested that her daughter Abby could walk home because they live 0.4miles or a 2 minute walk from school.
Alana said: “I was livid. I said “I’m not giving my eight-year-old a key, I don’t care how many eight-year-olds have one, this is my child and I’m not doing it.
“I just said ‘that is something that is never going to happen.’ I understand she’s getting older now, she’s not a toddler, but I don’t want her near the cooker and having to look after herself.”
Representatives from Falkirk Council and the Department for Work and Pensions have denied Alana’s claims.
On Universal Credit you can claim up to 85 per cent of childcare costs but you must pay the fees up front, as highlighted by The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
We want the government to enable these costs to be paid in advance to help more parents get back to work.
Alana was moved onto Universal Credit in September and knew it would be five weeks before receiving her first payment and she had no way to pay her £460 a month childcare fees.
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.
Luckily she was offered a job as a nursing assistant working 30 hours a week.
It was shift work which often started at 7am, or ending a 8pm and sometimes working overnight – but this meant she wouldn’t be able to pick up Abby from school.
Initially Alana was told by a debt advisor at Falkirk Council that she should give her daughter a key instead of paying for childcare.
RLNA Alana was forced to turn down the job as a nursing assistant because she couldn’t afford childcare
Ms Tait then spoke to a Universal Credits adviser at Grangemouth Jobcentre, via the helpline, and told her about the conversation she had with the debt adviser at the council.’They told me I should just give her a key’
She said: “I told the jobcentre the only way I could take the job was If I left my eight-year-old at home alone and she said it “maybe wasn’t a bad idea.”
“I told her the whole story and she said “You don’t stay too far from the school,” – my house is near the school. She was saying the same thing.
Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.
“I just never even replied to her, what do you say to that? There was absolutely no compassion.
“I found myself in a situation where I had been offered a job but I couldn’t go.
“I don’t have anyone to help looking after my daughter, I’m a single parent – I’d love not to be, but that’s me, that’s my life.”
RLNA Universal Credit staff expected eight-year-old Abby to let herself in when she finished school
Alana has no choice but to take the job as she was at risk of being sanctioned if she turned it down.
In order to pay for childcare she took a £320 advance from the DWP which she is now paying back at £90 a month out of her Universal Credit payments.’I would be better on benefits’
Alana said: “Universal Credits are meant to be encouraging people to work, there are so many people trying to better themselves, but it does the complete opposite. There’s no stability whatsoever.
“I would be better off on benefits, if I’m on benefits they will pay my rent and give me money for food and bills but if I go to work I don’t get any of that, they make it really hard.
“The only way I could make Universal Credit work for me, is not to be on it.
“To get off Universal Credits I’d have to work 70 hours a week and I’d get £1,900. But then I’d pay more in childcare. I’d have to be a workaholic, I’d have no input into my daughter’s life.”
‘I rely on food banks to feed my daughter’
She’s also had to visit the Me to You food bank in Falkirk three times to survive during that period so she could pay for her childcare.
“I was embarrassed using food banks,” She said. “But I had absolutely no money. I’ve never been in that situation before, I find it really degrading as a person because you can’t provide for your child.
“I thought I’d done the right thing applying for the job, I thought it would give me a good career and be a good thing for both of us.”
Alana’s first UC payment was for £413 while she usually earns £1,200 a month before taxes. This usually leaves her with £100 a month to buy food or other essentials.
However, due to the unfair taper rate she expects her next payment to be £0.
RLNA Alana has had to rely on food banks to put food on the table
On Universal Credit workers lose 63p in the pound on all earnings over their work allowance – in Alana’s case this is £504 a month.
Says she would be financially “better off” if she was unemployed and on benefits.
“Morally it’s wrong not to work,” She said. “I’ve been brought up to lead by example, I want to work, I want a career – but I’d be better off on benefits.
“I don’t understand what was wrong with working tax credits and why they had to bring in Universal Credits, there was nothing wrong with Working Tax.
“You knew what you were getting, it was set in stone, so it allowed you to pay for everything but now I’ve no idea what I will get.
“They only tell you five days before they pay you. And since I took the advance payment I’ll now get less each month. It’s just not worth being on it.
“I know £1,200 sounds like a lot of money in wages, but that is for everything. My rent, childcare, bills, food, clothes. I don’t have a second persons wage coming in so that has got to cover it all.”
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal CreditIF 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.
Both Falkirk Council and the DWP say advisers are not allowed to tell parents to leave young children home alone.
UNIVERSAL HELL I’m so broke on Universal Credit I feed my daughter leftover party food ExclusiveWHERE CREDIT’S DUE 4m set for £3k Universal Credit boost – but others plunged into poverty BAD CREDIT Corrie’s Bruce Jones slams ‘ridiculous’ 5-week wait for Universal Credit cash CREDIT CRISIS Universal Credit 5-week wait ‘sets Brits up to fail & loads them with debt’ OUT OF CREDIT I quit my job to care for dying mum but Universal Credit wait ruined my life
A spokesman for Falkirk Council said: “No adviser would ever give out that kind of advice as a young child could be at serious risk if they were left alone.
“Our advisers are well trained and offer the best advice to any client that they speak with.
“If Ms Tait still has concerns we are more than happy to discuss these directly.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “Jobcentre staff would not advise claimants to leave a minor at home alone to seek work.
“Universal Credit provides parents with tailored support and those in work can claim back up to 85 per cent of eligible childcare costs.”
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team? Email us at email@example.com