How to fix UC? Pay enough for me to afford good food

Paul says Universal Credit isn’t giving the support it should


In our society, we value compassion. We look to help people out in times of need.

Universal Credit is meant to help people stay afloat, but it isn’t working. It’s allowing them to be swept deeper into poverty.

Here’s Paul’s story.  He’s from Harrogate in North Yorkshire but lived in California for many years, running a sign business in Santa Barbara. He lived for a spell in Costa Rica, then Spain, but now he is back in Harrogate and on Universal Credit. We met him at St Peter’s Church, which distributes food to those in need every day.

Paul told us:

I had a beautiful home and quite a successful life and I was doing well.

I decided to retire at 55, and I’m 62 now. I’ve been back here two years and got a council house, and have been looking for jobs.

I didn’t know about this place for a long time. I got a couple of vouchers for the food bank but you can only go twice in a year, three times if you’re lucky. That helped me immensely but there were days I would not eat or would survive only on beans. Now, I have been coming here four days a week for the past three months.

One of the jobs I had was with a supermarket and I was disgusted by the amount of food they discarded or sent back to the manufacturers. That’s one issue that could be tackled; more supermarkets should donate food that’s slightly out of date.

Universal Credit pays you, but by the time you take off rent, gas, electricity, water and council tax, there’s just a few pounds a day left – barely a cup of coffee. I get £320 a month but I have been sanctioned before for three months, and I still don’t really know why. We need a bit more money essentially. If I got another £100 Universal Credit I could cook a lot more and have decent food instead of processed cans.

Overall, I think the Government do a good job on a lot of things, and the NHS is fantastic for example, but people who are poor or down and out could be helped a lot more.

The bigger picture

Paul is not alone in finding that Universal Credit is not working as it should.

We have heard from many other people who have also experienced problems, and who have been swept deeper into poverty as a result.

The End Hunger UK campaign has pointed out a number of ways that Universal Credit can and should be fixed. We call on the Government to:

  • Take action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit.
  • Make improvements to Universal Credit, to ensure it does not leave more people at risk of debt and destitution.
  • Make a long-term commitment to ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough income to afford good food on a regular basis.

To help Fix Universal Credit, you can sign or download the petition here.

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