Ryde’s recent rollout of Universal Credit has been slammed as “a recipe for disaster” for a claimant.
The nationwide rollout of the new benefit has proved controversial. And Sandown resident Andy Owers, 51, has been on Universal Credit Live for one year ahead of the full rollout.
He warns that he was left “destitute” and without money last Christmas when he originally claimed for the service.
Current benefit claimants attached to Ryde Job Centre are being made to cancel their claim after November 7 and start a new claim.
Andy said: “They are envisaging problems already and are rolling it out from November 7, so that hopefully they can sort claims out by Christmas, so you’re not left destitute or skint – which is what happened to me last year. I claimed in November and wasn’t paid until January. No money, total pants.”
Andy has an appointment on November 26 to start his new claim, but he’s concerned that once again he’ll be left with no money for Christmas.
He continued: “I’m due a payment on November 30 – will I get that payment? Then I reclaim, am I going to get a payment before Christmas?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at Christmas, but I’m thinking I’m going to be destitute at Christmas – again. I’m going to have absolutely nothing.
“[Last year] I borrowed money on my credit card. So now I am in debt. Which I can’t pay back, because I haven’t got enough money. It’s one of those Catch 22 situations.
“Why do it at bloody Christmas? It’s the one time of year when expense goes up. Yet they are rolling it out five weeks before Christmas, they could have chosen any time to do it. The whole thing is so stressful.”
Making a claim
The process of making a new claim involves registering all your personal details with a website ran by a private company like Experian, Post Office or Barclays.
Andy is worried that storing all your details in once place leaves you vulnerable to cyber crime.
“But if you don’t do it, you don’t get your money. It’s more or less blackmailing you,” said Andy.
He also warns that if you don’t have a computer or smart phone, you’ll be making regular trips to public libraries or the job centre itself – otherwise your payment could be stopped.
This is because the new system no longer requires users to visit the job centre and sign on, but instead the claim is managed through an online portal called “Your Journal”.
He said: “Everything is done via email in Your Journal. If you don’t reply to an email within seven days, your money is stopped – without question – that’s it. Then you have to go through a whole process.”
There is still a job coach session that requires a trip to the job centre on Universal Credit, but Andy says this has never helped him find a job.
And, if you don’t comply with your job coach, they can sanction you for up to three years and take £10 a day off you – for Andy that would be his entire benefit.
‘A recipe for disaster’
Andy responded to the government’s recent claims that austerity is almost over, he said: “No it isn’t over. It’s hard now and it’s going to get harder.”
“All your benefits, housing benefits, JSA, ESA is all under Universal Credit – so they’re going to be handing out wads of cash to people – some with addictions – once a month – it’s a recipe for disaster.”
If you’re on Universal Credit, or are about to make a claim, Andy has the following advice: “Be prepared. There’s a good chance you are going to hit financial problems. Talk to your work coaches. Make sure you have systems in place and contact people like the Salvation Army.
“You have to be referred to use the foodbank, but you can come to the church, the Soup Kitchen, you can go to Aspire. Maybe people need to be aware of that – it’s going to hit people hard.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.
“There’s no reason for people to be without money over Christmas because advance payments are widely available – and payable on the same day if there is urgent need.
“To ensure everyone entitled is paid before the two festive breaks, every year we bring forward over 20 million payments to benefit claimants.”