21st February 2019

Universal Credit – The accumulative stress of uncertainty

As Universal Credit rolls out across the country, we are continuing to check in with a foodbank in an area currently transitioning to UC to see if there is any noticeable impact on the number of families with children using their services. We hear the first hand experiences of one of the foodbank’s staff, Linda.

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“It’s getting busier and busier each week,” Linda tells me. And in the four and half years she’s been connected to the foodbank, this is as busy as she’s ever known it.

Recently Linda has seen first-hand the problems people face when they move into the area from somewhere which hasn’t had universal credit.

The delay in payments is causing problems enough, but the issues extend to childcare too.

Linda tells me about a 30-year-old single parent who is reliant on the foodbank because she hadn’t understood that her childcare costs had to be paid for upfront, then subsequently claimed back.

Because she couldn’t afford the nursery fees upfront, she couldn’t go to work and is now claiming full unemployment benefit. Linda is clear that this could have been avoided if there had been no delays and the childcare costs were more easily accessible.

“This is added stress,” says Linda. From our conversation, there’s a sense of people hunkering down for the long haul, reliant on a system that is pushing them to their limits.

“The biggest fear now is people being evicted. We have heard of eviction procedures being started, people are terrified.”

Linda’s seen universal credit in the news and is pleased there is growing awareness of the problems. “But this is something we already knew, and this wider acknowledgement has no impact on people’s day to day lives.”

“So it’s an accumulative stress of uncertainty and poverty. And to have children with that hanging over you – it must be awful.”

More blog posts from our series on Universal Credit

Previous post: 24 January 2019 – “This system is so difficult to find your way around”

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