Socialist Worker

Misery in Tory Britain as Universal Credit lands domestic violence survivor with eviction threat

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2581

Katy has had her benefits cut in half

Katy has had her benefits cut in half (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget will do nothing to end the regime of cuts, poverty and racism.

A major study last week said austerity politics was linked to 120,000 extra deaths. Spending cuts and a drop in the number of nurses being hired could be causing an extra 100 deaths every day.

The cruel Universal Credit benefit scheme is at the forefront of the Tories’ brutal cuts. It means benefit sanctions and misery for thousands.

Katy—not her real name—is one of thousands of Universal Credit claimants threatened with eviction this winter.

Misery in Tory Britain - Socialist Workers front page

The impact of Universal Credit threatens to drive Katy and her seven children back to the domestic violence they escaped earlier this year.

She fled her abusive partner earlier this year, leaving behind her home, friends, family and two part-time jobs in London for temporary accommodation in Gravesend, Kent.

But the rules of Universal Credit severely punish being out of work. Katy’s family now come under the benefit cap, and it has sliced their income almost in half.

Katy now gets £1,093 a month to pay for everything. This amount is supposed to pay for all the rent, bills, food, clothes, transport and everything for a family of eight.

Once the rent and council tax are paid they are left with just over £2 each per day.

Arrears have built up, and now Gravesham Council has warned it will evict them unless Katy pays it money she has no way of getting.

Katy told Socialist Worker, “What they are doing is not fair.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me and my family, all because I decided to get out of an abusive relationship.”

Her experience of Universal Credit has been the opposite of the government’s boasts.

Universal Credit is supposedly about helping people into work. But having no money for childcare and no guarantee she can stay in Gravesend makes it impossible to get a job.

“I can’t work because my youngest is only three years old and there’s no one here to look after her,” Katy said.

“And there aren’t many jobs that will take you for two hours in the day.”

Universal Credit is supposedly about simplifying the benefits system.

Bewildering

But people’s lives don’t always fit into its boxes, and the reality can be a bewildering catch-22 situation.

Katy said, “When I was put in emergency accommodation, I was told Universal Credit would pay the rent.

“When I went to the jobcentre to claim it, they said no—I’d have to go to the council to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment.

“But the council said they’d only pay a third of the rent and I’d have to find the rest. Now they are looking to evict me.

“This week I’m giving them £800 and it might all go to paying off the arrears. If I don’t find another £400 for this month’s rent they’re going to kick me out.”

The government is rolling out Universal Credit slowly and changing the rules as it goes. But no-one can move back onto their old benefits, however their circumstances change.

Katy said, “Now people with more than two children aren’t supposed to be on Universal Credit. If I started claiming today, I would be on child tax credits and income support instead.

“And Gravesend jobcentre doesn’t do Universal Credit yet. They have to link up with my old jobcentre in London and have them handle my claim even though I live in Kent.”

Benefit cuts leave claimants at the mercy of their councils, and Tory-run Gravesham has been no help. “They just say it’s not their problem, I have to find the money,” Katy said.

“They did say if I was struggling I could contact social services. But I have enough anxieties about social services taking my children away.

“I don’t want them to come knocking at the door simply because I’m having financial difficulties.”

Anger as jobcentre bosses hold sick Universal Credit ‘rollout parties’
Anger as jobcentre bosses hold sick Universal Credit ‘rollout parties’
  Read More

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn revealed last week that one landlord in Lincolnshire has sent hundreds of eviction notices to tenants on Universal Credit.

There’s now some debate about the details of the benefit’s implementation.

MPs and the government are haggling over whether new claimants should have to wait four, five or six weeks before receiving a single penny.

Labour has called for its rollout to be paused.

Katy said, “I think they should scrap it—with no delay.”

She added, “They are putting me under immense stress and pressure. It is the government’s duty to protect me and my family from this domestic violence.

“That is what they say—don’t put up with it, we can help. But they don’t help.

“What options are they leaving me other than to go back to London where I’ve got friends and jobs, but where the man is who I fled because of domestic violence?”

The Tories have got to go, and we need much more resistance from the trade union and Labour Party leaders to force them out now.

Unite Community has called a Stop and Fix Universal Credit day of action on Saturday 2 December, for more information see bit.ly/2BbJEwf

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.