Safety net or trap?

The words on this page were written by people with experience of claiming Universal Credit and other benefits, as a contribution to my Lobster Pot project. More contributions are still needed.

Humiliating. I wish I didn’t have to claim. I became disabled by a virus, overnight. It can happen to anyone. Those who pick on the disabled don’t realise they might be next.

Universal Credit = Totalitarian Regime

For me personally as a single mother who is studying part time and volunteering as part of my education, I am hugely out of pocket having lost my tax credit through UC. I can no longer claim child care costs. I do not want to take my son out of nursery having been there for 4 years & in doing so being unable to study let alone fulfil my work search commitments. I now pay his childcare costs – roughly £300pm – from what we are supposed to live on.

Blatant discrimination against those living with Mental Health difficulties. Soul Destroying. Utterly degrading.

How do you feel about being on benefits?

I feel happy about claiming welfare benefits. I don’t feel guilty about it. I appreciate all the free time I get being unemployed. I couldn’t stand having a job and losing so much time to being told what to do. That’s not what life is about for me. There is a great freedom that comes with claiming benefits – a wealth of time. Claiming benefits enables me to use my time more creatively.

The welfare system is at root a visionary and positive system which has compassion, optimism, hope and creativity in its outlook. Fundamentally it is a system that believes in people.

Successive governments have sought to discredit and dismantle the welfare benefits system. Corporate government has introduced a raft of policies aimed at making it increasingly difficult to get by claiming benefits.

There have been widespread, severe cuts in welfare benefits since the Tory/LibDem government came to power in 2010.

How is it financially? getting by?

It is now really hard to live on current rates of benefit. It is hard to imagine how it is possible to get by on Universal Credit alone. Housing Benefit is often significantly lower than private rent. I have to contribute nearly £100 to my private rent from a total benefit income of about £440 per month. I make savings by eating a restricted diet of biscuits, crisps and bananas. I cannot afford to cook a proper meal with protein and vegetables.

How would you describe the experience?

It’s hard. You have to be very strategic, tactical, clever with money and with the process of claiming benefits. Many people suffer from poor mental health, difficult life circumstances and poor education. These are the people the benefits system should help and it’s treating them abominably. The benefits system is often failing to act as a safety net for the people it should be helping. Homelessness has greatly increased since the assault on benefits was started by the Conservative/LibDem government. Many of the most vulnerable people in society are being failed by the benefits system. Claimants are treated with mistrust and disrespect by many people working in the benefits system.

What would you change about the benefits system if you were in charge?

I think it would be a good idea to implement a basic living payment for everyone regardless of their employment status. More meaningful and constructive employment would likely develop upon the foundation of a fairer society initiated by the introduction of a basic living wage.

The ESA assessment process in Lewes is limited and daunting.

The Housing application and award is supportive, however below the average rental cost in Brighton today.