In light of the recent rollout of Universal Credit, I thought I would talk a little bit about it. As I claim Universal Credit myself, I often get asked what it is and how it differs from previous benefits. Now I am no expert but, I can speak from personal experience and I have to admit that since claiming, it has been eye-opening to see just how poorly people are looked after if they are unable to work. I have admittedly been one of the lucky ones, although it may not seem that way once I have shared my story but, compared to thousands of people out there, I have been able to obtain Universal Credit and haven’t had to go through too much distress in order to do so. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and a bed to sleep in which I couldn’t be more grateful for. Suffering from long-term conditions is very difficult without the added stress of staying afloat amidst a very dysfunctional and supportive system, designed to keep the rich, rich and the poor, poor.
So, I might as well start by explaining what Universal Credit is. UC is the brand new way of rolling together 6 different benefits into 1 including; Income support, income based job-seekers allowance, income related employment-support allowance, housing benefits, working tax credit and child tax credit. This benefit is paid monthly to claimants and was designed to simplify the benefits system to make it more efficient and increase the incentives for people to work rather than stay on benefits. Now before I go on, I just wanted to point out that people who are unable to work due to illness, or otherwise do not wish to live on benefits but, have no other choice so, by stating that UC aims to persuade people to work rather than claim just completely misses the point. We need a better system in place which doesn’t aim to further condemn those who claim due to circumstances out of their control. I can’t speak for everyone but, I would much rather work than claim but, due to my health condition, I would be unreliable and unable to work. Being unemployed can strip you of your sense of purpose, leave you feeling isolated and separate you from society. Trying to navigate your way through life when you are unable to do the one thing that seems to measure your success, create your character and ultimately pay for you to live is soul destroying. Nobody wants this!
I started claiming benefits 3 years ago when ESA and JSA were 2 different benefits, just before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. At this time, I was unaware of how difficult it would be to claim and was not prepared for the long process ahead. I will write a short breakdown of how the last few years have looked benefit wise:
- First application in 2015 before diagnosis – Filled out Employment Support Application
– Had assessment
– Turned down
– Applied for a mandatory reconsideration
– Turned down
– Went to a tribunal
– ESA stopped and deemed fit for work
- Applied for Job seekers 2016
– Had an interview at a call centre
– Offered the job that evening and asked to come in for training the next day
– Too ill to go for the training and had to withdraw
– Applied for a job at the job centre (don`t ask me why), went through the application process
– Offered interview, was too ill to attend, had to withdraw
– Re-applied for ESA
- A second application in November 2016 after being diagnosed
– Sent off the application,
– Went for an assessment and was assessed by someone who understood the condition but, was told that they would need to focus on the impact that the condition has on my mental health in order to gain points
– Was awarded Universal Credit
- 2018 Re- assessment letter
-Went for assessment
– Currently awaiting outcome
Once you jump on the benefit roller coaster, the ups and downs come in quick succession. You can’t stop it and get off, you won’t have a seat belt, you won’t enjoy the ride and there is a possibility that you will end up getting off with nothing. My story is similar to many other people who have been through the process and kicked while their down but, there are also thousands of people who have been ultimately left penniless and homeless in the UK. Around 80% of people moved onto Universal Credit are in arrears before receiving their payment which takes up to 8 weeks to come through. In this time people are left to fend for themselves and are forced to rely on food banks. Food banks in some of the poorest areas in the UK are preparing for a big rise in demand when UC is rolled out and are calling for more donations and volunteers and stockpiling essential supplies.
The benefit system was not efficient before Universal Credit was introduced and now it has been made even worse. The only people that this new system benefits are those who created it. Condensing 6 benefits into one is convenient for them. People higher up are always talking about the issues that we are facing in this country such as homelessness, mental health, housing crisis but, do not accept that it is those who are on benefits and are subjected to months or even years of proving themselves to a system that has already made its decision, are the ones that are suffering. UC has fueled the homelessness crisis in Britain, has had a detrimental effect on peoples mental health, has increased the demand for food banks and is leaving people in the worst possible positions. It makes me so angry to know that there are so many people out there who are struggling, all due to the poor decisions and selfish actions made by the people who are meant to be looking after us.