Blogger told CommonSpace Universal Credit “directly discriminates against disabled people”
A SCOTTISH blogger's daily diary of life on universal credit has gone viral after he highlighted the personal impact of the UK Government's flagship welfare reforms which have left him in the cold as he budgets, inspiring an online campaign to increase foodbank donations.
Alex, who lives in the Scottish Highlands, posted a series of tweets showing how he spends his fortnightly welfare claim of £92, which still leaves him reliant on foodbanks.
Day (1) update of a #UniversalCredit sufferer
Got my fortnightly £92 today
TV licence £12
Baby milk £9.50
Electric & Gas £30
Money left for 2 weeks = £10.50
Weekly trip to foodbank.Sat in dark with heating off to budget. Kids tomorrow @DWP #poverty
— Alex (@RespectIsVital) May 4, 2018
Speaking to CommonSpace, Alex said: "I wanted to raise awareness that the roll out of universal credit is experiencing more than just so-called teething problems.
"It directly discriminates against disabled people. I just thought if I'm in this situation then so are others."
The UK Government's flagship welfare reform, universal credit combines multiple welfare payments into one and is being rolled out across the UK in stages. However, critics of the policy have been calling for the rollout to be stopped after a series of problems were identified.
Day 3 and 4 Update of a #UniversalCredit sufferer.
Start with £9.15
Next payment 13 days time
Kids away home so heating off. No #heatwave here either.
Rice for lunch and dinner.@DWP #poverty
— Alex (@RespectIsVital) May 7, 2018
A series of Scottish Government reports recently highlighted the impact of welfare reforms, with the most recent showing that the roll out of universal credit had a negative impact on housing - with households more likely to end up in rent arrears due to the new policy.
Universal credit has also been criticised for its so-called "rape clause" which forces women who have been raped to declare details on a form in order to claim extra child benefit, something repeatedly condemned by opposition parties and women's groups.
A UK Government spokesperson explained the rationale behind the policy: “The best way to help people improve their lives is to support them into employment, and under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. We’ve made significant improvements to Universal Credit, such as removing the 7 waiting days, paying 2 weeks’ extra housing support for claimants moving onto Universal Credit and increasing advance payments to 100%. Landlords can also apply to have rent paid directly to them if their tenants are in arrears.
— em (@emageddon) May 20, 2018
“The Scottish Government now has the power to create new benefits or top up existing ones. We have introduced flexibilities in Universal Credit payments through Universal Credit Scottish choices and we remain committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure a smooth transition of the remaining devolved responsibilities.”
Speaking in October 2017, the Scottish Government's minister for social security, Jeane Freeman, said universal credit was an "ill-designed, flawed system" which failed the people it designed to support.
Since his diary gained attention, Alex has started an online campaign to encourage more people to donate to food banks by asking people to post pictures of their donations online and encourage a friend to join in.
The UK Government said that the reasons people used food banks were complex, but statistics from the Trussell Trust, which operates food banks, showed the single biggest reason for referral to a food bank was because of peoples low income on benefits.
Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, explained the need to get universal credit right: “It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing. For too many people staying above water is a daily struggle. It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank as a result.
“Universal Credit is the future of our benefits system. It’s vital we get it right, and ensure levels of payment keep pace with the rising cost of essentials, particularly for groups of people we know are already more likely to need a food bank – disabled people, people dealing with an illness, families with children and single parents.”
Picture courtesy of Helen Cobain