UC doesn’t leave me enough to buy food

If it was not for this place, I would not eat.

To understand poverty, we need to listen to those who are experiencing it.

Right now, one of the biggest issues is the flawed implementation of Universal Credit.

We met Niel at St Peter’s, a fantastic church in Harrogate that distributes emergency food to people in need every single day of the week. They display the sort of compassion that our society is built on.

Here is what Niel says:

I first came in December and I’ve been coming on and off. Recently, it’s been a lot more because of my situation.

I am not homeless but I have been through a divorce and have had to start coming here. The council didn’t help with housing. I asked what they could do and they said I could just go on the waiting list, but in the end I found a place myself and my parents helped cover it initially. Otherwise, I’d have had to move back to Kent.

Universal Credit I have found to be pretty rubbish. The Jobcentre put me in touch with here and I’ve used it ever since. I volunteer as well now, to give something back.

I come here every evening and receive food to take away, and that has helped me a lot.”

Universal Credit is meant to help people stay afloat, and it is meant to make work pay, but finding a job is not easy and many people find the currents pull them into poverty, despite their best efforts.

Niel says:

I really struggled with Universal Credit. I had had my own business. It wasn’t working out but they said because I had a company I could get only £328 a month Universal Credit, which didn’t cover the rent. When I spoke to them and told them the company wasn’t working, it went up but my rent is £365 and once that and bills and council tax go out of it, there’s not much and this place helped me a lot.

I used to be a snob. This was not a place I would ever dream of coming too, but my flat mate got me to come and I have got to know more people. And I’m not a snob now.

I never envisaged being on Universal Credit. The Jobcentre have been good for me. My workcoach provides a lot of information about courses and suggests things but work here is quite limited if you don’t have transport. I ran an events company in the hotel industry for 20 years but a lot of the things I apply for now, I never hear back about.

If it was not for this place, I would not eat. I struggle month to month. Hopefully I will find at least a part-time job soon, then see how that leaves Universal Credit. 

The bigger picture

Niel also shared his story with The Yorkshire Post, as part of the paper’s recent series on Universal Credit, to which Church Action on Poverty contributed.

He 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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