SINGLE mum Amanda Bailey lies awake at night worrying about losing the home she shares with 18-year-old daughter Ruth.
After being forced to wait five weeks for her first Universal Credit payment, she has fallen behind on her rent and fears she is could be thrown out of her house.
Caters News Agency Amanda Bailey, 50, is struggling to keep up with bills after five-week wait for cash and Universal Credit’s harsh taper rate has pushed her into debt
The 50 year-old shop assistant, who has diabetes, says she regularly skips meals and if her daughter is not home she often sits in candlelight with a hot water bottle in the evenings to save money on electricity.
Amanda, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, applied for Universal Credit on December 10 after her job packing Christmas gift boxes came to an end, but didn’t receive her first payment until January 16.
She took a £500 loan out from the DWP to cover her until she received her first payment, but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet and she fell behind on her rent.
In January, she has just £13 a week left for food after paying her bills, but in February her income wasn’t enough to cover her basic outgoings and she had to skip rent payments in order to eat.
Last week she had a knock on the door from council workers threatening to start the eviction process unless she gave them a date by which she would repay her rent arrears.
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.
“It is terrifying and I’m so worried we will end up homeless,” she said. “I told the council I’m doing everything I can, but they didn’t seem sympathetic.
“I’ve been a single mum for 12 years and I’ve been made homeless three times in the past through no fault of my own, so I’m so scared of losing my home again.”
The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign is calling for the government to reduce the five week wait for cash to two.
‘I get up for work at 2.30am’
Amanda is thrilled to have a job again – even though this means getting up at 2.30am to fill online shopping orders for Sainsbury’s – but says that she is still struggling to get back on top of her bills after three months of very little work.
Amanda said: “I feel so hopeless and I can’t see any way out of the mess that I’m in. Sometimes I just feel like giving up.
“I’m willing to work all the hours I can just to get back on track but I can’t get enough work.”
She is now hunting for an extra job, while her daughter Ruth works part-time at a shoe shop and contributes as much as she can to try and keep a roof over their heads.
“All I want is to have enough money coming in so that I can stand on my own two feet and I don’t have to rely on benefits, but I just can’t get the hours because there isn’t enough work out there.”
Caters News Agency Amanda has tried to get work but when shifts dried up she was left penniless
‘Taper rate means there’s no point in working’
Amanda adds: “I had to borrow money from the Government to get through the five-week wait for my first payment, which was over Christmas.
“This meant I was in debt from the very start and I’ll be paying back the loan for most of this year.”
Amanda says that she is also being hit by the harsh taper rate – Universal Credit claimant’s benefits are cut by 63p for every £1 they earn over the “work allowance”, which in Amanda’s case is set at zero.
Taper rate is based on how much you earned during the previous month – or “assessment period” – which means that if Amanda earns more during one month she has much less to live on the following month if she doesn’t get any work.
The Sun is campaigning to slash the taper rate from 63p to 50p, helping 4 million families.
“Now I see most of my benefit wiped out because of the taper rate so I don’t have enough left to cover my basic bills.
“The Government says Universal Credit is supposed to help people get back into work, but it feels like they are just setting you up to fail.”
Caters News Agency Amanda will sometimes skip meals if her daughter isn’t home as she can’t afford food
The Sun speaks to locals of Morecambe Bay on their struggle with Universal Credit
‘I feel worthless – but keep picking myself back up’
Amanda said: “I feel worthless when I get constant knock-backs from job applications and sometimes I worry that it is my age, but I keep picking myself back up and trying again.”
She received just £94 in Universal Credit for January and £118 for February.It means that in the assessment period between January 10 and February 9 Amanda took home just £770 including her earnings from warehouse shifts and Universal Credit.
Her monthly outgoings, including rent, council tax and other essentials, are £714 – leaving Amanda with just £13 a week for food.
Between mid-February and mid-March, she took home just £528 in earnings and Universal Credit – leaving her with a shortfall of £185.
It meant that Amanda had to miss three weeks’ rent so that she could buy food.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are paying Ms Bailey the full housing entitlement available based on two tenants living in a three-bedroom property.
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“We have also directed her to additional Local Authority support which can be provided where there is a shortfall in rent due to extra bedrooms.”
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, leader of Ashfield District Council, was highly critical of the way Universal Credit changes have impacted local residents.
He said: “We are fully supportive of our tenants and offer both money management and welfare benefit advice, along with tenancy support to all customers who need it.
“During preparation for the Universal Credit roll-out within Ashfield, we have created a £200,000 welfare reform reserve and added several new staff to our housing team.
“They are pro-actively reaching out and assisting those across the district struggling with their rent and finances as a result of the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit.”
The council confirmed it has not yet started the formal eviction process.
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