Universal Credit: I became homeless and depressed

One Universal Credit recipient tells how the new system led to homelessness.

Church Action on Poverty has invited people to tell us about their experiences of Universal Credit. There have been concerns about the way the system is being introduced and we and other charities have called for changes.
True stories can help to show the need for changes. If you would like to speak to us, email gavin@church-poverty.org.uk in confidence
This is Adam’s story:
I was living in the London borough of Newham when Universal Credit was introduced last year.

Firstly, it was a big shock as the new system is totally different – 35 hours a week job search, a lot more than the 10 jobs every two weeks on Job Seekers’ Allowance, weekly appointments, and extra appointments given between them.

There was a six-week wait for benefits and my landlord made me homeless about a week after it was introduced. I had no place to go, no sleeping bag and it was raining, and the police refused to help. The six-week wait is a big issue and a lot of landlords will not accept Universal Credit anymore, because it takes six weeks to come through.
I had quite a strained relationship with my landlord but I think he saw it was a six-week wait and he evicted me. I think landlords have had rent weekly every week for years, then suddenly they have to wait, and I think that’s a factor for people.
I had to ask my parents for help, who are struggling to pay bedroom tax themselves and have no spare money. Also my parents were the original reason I was homeless and needed housing benefit, due to abuse in that household. Unfortunately, the lifeline I depended on was taken away by the Government without fully testing the new system, then I worried for weeks after about what to do as the new system was so difficult and felt it had ruined my life.
The first payment was six weeks after I applied, so I had to juggle staying in hotels with trying to get away from my abusive parents, checking my account every week, hoping the money was there. That caused further stress. I had accepted the seven-day waiting period, but then they added the six-week period.

I’m now diagnosed with anxiety and depression and with alcohol dependence, which the new benefit pushed me towards, especially as it was my only safety net.

I then had to move to Colchester as the only homeless service that would accommodate me was Emmaus, so I had to move away from my support network etc. When I closed down my Universal Credit claim, I wasn’t paid for the three weeks extra I had claimed.
I just kept moving around as Colchester did not have it when I moved. I am now living in Havering. The council here put me into a room and I asked the housing officer if Universal Credit would cover all the rent, and he said there was a shortfall. Here, a single room can be £600 a month so I do not know how the council is going to get a private landlord to accept £280. I feel Universal Credit has changed my life and I am worried.
  • Adam is a pseudonym used to protect this writer’s anonymity.
  • If you would like to share your experiences of Universal Credit, email gavin@church-poverty.org.uk

Comments (03)

  1. I have a 21 year old daughter who suffers with multi personality disorder and anxiety and depression. We have tried to apply for the new universal sickness benefit. Forms came with a letter that said when filled in ring this number and a meeting will be arranged. However they won’t answer the phone. Been nearly a week off trying. The local job centre said it doesn’t concern them

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