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"It was devastating": This Skipton woman says Universal Credit made her HOMELESS

"It was devastating": This Skipton woman says Universal Credit made her HOMELESS

Published at 7:03am 5th March 2019.

A Skipton woman says she was made homeless after claiming Universal Credit. 

  • Stray FM's investigation into the impact of Universal Credit continues 
  • It was introduced in Harrogate and Craven in 2016 as part of a pilot
  • Stray FM has visited Skipton Food Bank to see the impact
  • One woman tells us she could no longer afford her rented accommodation after claiming Universal Credit 

38-year-old Nicola signed up to claim the new benefit in 2016, when Craven and Harrogate became one of the first areas to trial it. 

Universal Credit represents a huge shake-up of the benefits system and rolls a number of benefits into one. 

Read more about how Universal Credit works here. 

Nicola says after claiming, she found it "impossible" to afford all of her bills. 

With £400 a month to pay in rent and just over £600 coming in, she lost her flat. 

She said: 

"It became impossible to afford gas, water, electric, council tax. 

"At that point I didn't know about the food bank so I was struggling to eat as well. 

"I just got to a point where I knew my next month's rent was not going to be possible."

An issue that has emerged with the new system is a delay in getting the first payment. Some people have had to wait as long as six weeks.

Nicola opted for an advanced payment to tide her over, but didn't realise she would have to start paying it back at a cost of £47 a month.

Nicola added: 

"I was homeless and it was a really scary situation because I never thought I would end up homeless.

"You look at life and think it won't happen to me.

"It was devastating."

You can hear our full interview with Nicola below: 

Nicola tells Stray FM her story

Nicola, who now lives in a homeless hub, says there should be more awareness of the help available for claimants. 

She added: 

"If I can only just and sometimes not make ends meet in homeless temporary accommodation, how about the people who're living in the community in rented accommodation, how are they meant to afford this? 

"I mean, I've already been made homeless."

Prime Minister Theresa May has described the introduction of the benefit changes as a "steady process", saying ministers are "learning through the process".

Despite delaying the nationwide roll out, the government says Universal Credit will be implemented in full by December 2023.

A DWP spokesperson said:

Universal Credit is a force for good, we continue to make improvements where needed and 96% of claimants now receive their payments in full and on time.

“There is a range of specialised support to people struggling with homelessness and housing issues, including help with opening bank accounts, finding accommodation and budgeting. We have also committed to establishing a single point of contact for homelessness issues in every jobcentre.

Food bank use is a complex issue, and can’t be tied to any one cause.”

The Department for Work and Pensions also claims Universal Credit will mean "an extra 200,000 people moving into work and increasing their incomes". It says the system is simpler and families and disabled people will receive more money per month.

It adds "a range of stakeholders, including Refuge, Crisis and StepChange responded positively to Secretary of State’s recent speech, setting out an ambitious new future for Universal Credit."

For more information on Skipton Food Bank visit www.skiptonfoodbank.org