I had nothing, then Universal Credit made things even worse
At Carecent in York, which provides breakfast for homeless and vulnerable people, Michael Webster says Universal Credit made his difficult situation even worse
I was living at Yacro (York Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) and was on Universal Credit, receiving £283 a month.
I waited six weeks for any money. I went on it in the middle of last year and at the first appointment at the job centre I got a £130 advance payment, then I waited six weeks for any more money. How can you make £130 last six weeks? I had nothing.
They wanted me to do 35 hours’ a week job searching, but I was in a resettlement programme and had to do three days’ a week of community service. I also volunteer at a local project called Encounter, which helps people, and I could not get that 35 hours. Then I got sanctioned because I missed an appointment because I was doing community service. I chased it up with my key worker at Yacro, and it turned out I should not even have been on Universal Credit because I was in temporary accommodation. But I got my three-month sanction, so I had nothing for three months.
Now, I am back on Jobseeker’s Allowance, because I am still in the temporary accommodation, so I receive £140 a fortnight now.
Realistically, I will probably end up having to go back on Universal Credit but I think they are going to break people now, especially families. I think it’s really bad; there are people who are really going to struggle.
There are people who come in here who do not have the life experience or skills to budget and if you give them all their money in one go and say pay these bills and make it last a month, then it’s not going to happen. York has a crisis with people being poor, hence why places like Carecent are here, and they should keep the payments fortnightly or weekly. It will be Joe Public who suffers.
People who need those benefits are not going to have savings in the bank, and is a landlord going to accept not getting their rent for six weeks? No.
People are accumulating real debt and people without families or real friends are going to suffer. Even people who do won’t want to become a burden.
Universal Credit definitely made my situation worse. I am lucky, I can adapt and survive, but that’s because that’s been my lifestyle over the past ten years. There are a lot of people who have never experienced this kind of life who will now experience it. I think there will be a lot more people using foodbanks, especially families. It will create more poverty. I think homelessness here will double and the poor are going to get poorer.