Sunday, 18 November 2018

A story from Sufra Foodbank as Universal Credit rolls out in Brent

From the Sufra Newsletter

It's been over 6 weeks since Saira applied for Universal Credit. Ever since, she has been turning up to the Food Bank literally every day. Dishevelled and forlorn, she sits for hours, sunk into a folding chair next to the disabled toilet. 

Universal Credit hasn't quite rolled out in most of North West London, but Saira recently moved from Brent to Islington and was forced to switch to the new ‘flagship’ scheme.

To be fair, the overall aim of Universal Credit is noble (or should I say economically expedient for a government determined to cut costs). Universal Credit aims to simplify access to the benefits system, make work pay and help those in itinerant employment receive some extra help as and when they need it. But frankly, it's an absolute shambles. A Universal Shambles.

Saira's first challenge is that she must apply online. She doesn't have a computer. She doesn't have internet. And even if she did, she wouldn’t know how to use it.  

And then there’s the big waiting game: applicants must wait 5 weeks to receive any money (it was 6 weeks before, but Mrs May, bless her socks, felt that a 5-week wait was sufficiently punitive for the poor). It is therefore no surprise that food bank use in areas afflicted by Universal Credit has seen a 50% increase in demand. 

All this, alongside computer glitches and multiple changes to rules and regulations (one DWP official at the local job centre confessed that he couldn't keep up with the chaos), has left people in debt, rent arrears and financial ruin. And at risk of suicide, according to 
this article in the Guardian.

From 21 November, Universal Credit is coming to the London Borough of Brent. So, if you're applying for benefits for the first time, or your circumstances change, you can say goodbye to the Christmas cheer. You won't be eating a traditional turkey dinner. You won't be switching on your heating or boiling the kettle. You won't have any credit on your phone. And your landlord will be threatening you every day that he's calling the bailiffs.

With all the government’s Brexit woes, will anyone be thinking about these families in need? 

Do come along to the public information meeting on Universal  Credit at Chalkhill Community Centre on Friday November 23rd at 7pm.


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