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“Universal credit is likely to be the main cause of the explosion in food bank use, the government has admitted, after years of denying the link.
 
Delays that meant people “had difficulty accessing their money early enough” could be to blame for claimants seeking emergency food aid, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, told MPs.” - Full article here  
 
The truth is a bit more complex than they are actually admitting, but an attempt at honesty in Politics is a rare event and one which should celebrated.
 
There are three main failing in Universal Credit which we are aware of. (There are doubtlessly many more)
 
(1) Late initial Payments. Although we did have some money to survive the initial 5 week waiting period it was literally less than £100 when we initiated our claim. Yes they do offer you an Advance. But as with anything you borrow it needs to be repaid. Taking 10 monthly repayments from a sum which is impossible to live on in the first place is hardly assistance in the long run.
 
(2) The “Housing Element” The cost of housing is simply not reflected in the capped limits imposed on an area by area basis. We unfortunately spent six month's in a Homeless Hostel after two very damaging contracts cost us everything we had. It soon became clear that even in a Homeless Hostel we had to add £120 per month from the money which we were supposed to feed and cloth ourselves with, just in order to make up the rent and service charges and keep ahead. If you default when you are in a Hostel there really is nowhere else for you to go. This left us with the princely sum of £4 a day for two adults to live on.
 
(3) Couples are discriminated against. If you live together or did when you initially make a claim, your payment is some 42% lower than two individual single people making separate claims. The Conservative party once proclaimed themselves The Party of Family Values?
 
Clearly there will always be an element of society who want a free ride. But personally I can't imagine anybody making an unnecessary Universal Credit claim. Once you are “In the system” you are effectively trapped in poverty. If for example you can not afford to cloth yourself appropriately for an interview, you are clearly at a massive disadvantage. The threat of being “Sanctioned” hangs over your head constantly. But unlike “Job Centres” in the past they do not offer any assistance in finding work and a way out. 

Universal Credit & Employment Agencies!

I appreciate that the Job Centre Plus staff have a very difficult job to do. I also appreciate that they have internal rules and guidance to follow.
 
However if they have information and documents which might assist those looking for work I would have thought that it was their duty to share these with their clients. It would seem this is not the case. Here is an example:-
 
“Having had several appointments over the last few months and also having made it clear that I was happy to do anything in my power to find employment, I asked on the off-chance if they had a list of Employment Agencies in the York area. Strangely the agent reached into a desk tidy to her left and plucked a copy from a stack in the top shelf which contains names and contact details for 25 Agencies which are active in the area. Many of these are not easily located using Google as they have head offices in other locations.”
 
Not a great service from a failing system really is it?
 
If you are willing to work for an Employment Agency in the York area here is the list as a .PDF. (11.46Mb) You can also click on the picture above in you are using a mobile phone, because we like our services and articles to be accessible to all! It's possibly not the greatest quality but if you call in and ask they are more than willing to give you a copy.
 
But which should you have to ask in the first place?
50 Recipes for £4 or less – Charity Ebook -  Eat Well on a Very Restricted Budget.
 
We would like to thank everybody who has bought our recipe Ebook and donated this week. We've had a amazing response, especially as we are only using Facebook to promote it at present (It's free so doesn't take from the proceeds for the charities). Next wee I'm to be interviewed by YO1 Radio which I hope will get the word out so we can help the Charities and Groups helping the Homeless and these in need even more.
 
Meals on a very restricted budget don't need to be boring!
 
We've created this Ebook in support of the following local Charities and Groups:-
 
The Salvation Army
Church Action on Poverty
Doncaster Street Hub
York Secret Helpers
Sleep Safe Selby
OR A Charity of your choosing
 
“In January 2018 we found ourselves in a Homeless Hostel and some six months later had to resort to living in a tent in order to save our much loved dog Buster from any further separation. On a budget of £4 a day to feed ourselves and Buster via Universal Credit, we spent much of our time sourcing ingredients and fresh water just to survive. Probably to keep ourselves sane we kept a record of our recipes. Many of the recipes in the book were created and cooked beside our tent on a single burner camp stove. We were fortunate to be helped by several charities and now have a flat in York. The remainder of these recipes have been created and cooked here on the same very limited budget.”
 
This is our way of giving something back to the charities who helped us and are continuing to help the homeless and those in need. We hope you find them inspiring and more to the point tasty and frugal.
 
The Ebook costs £4 with all proceeds going directly to your chosen charity or cause.
 
 

Brushing the problem under the carpet

In addition to this honest and very accurate article there is a policy certainly in York and most probably in other major cities, which the general public are probably not aware of.
 
I'll use information which we know to be factual. 
 
Recently one of the organizations we support reported that on Wednesday this week they couldn't find any of the rough sleepers they wanted to offer free food and drinks to. This was simply because the Night Marshalls and Police had forced them all out of the city centre. Ahead of the last few hectic Christmas shopping days nobody wants to see homeless people in doorways, right? Not right! Yes York has a great deal of economic investment from tourists and visitors. But forcing the homeless out of the city for aesthetic reasons is certainly not solving the problem. 
 
We also know that this happened in the autumn ahead of the food festival. Again there is no justification for this and it certainly does nothing to address the problem.
 
These are humans, peoples family members. You can't treat them as dirt and sweep them under the carpet.
 
Nobody we met during our crisis had made themselves “Intentionally Homeless”. This is an insidious phrase which was used against us. Fortunately for us we were able to defend ourselves again the decision and win the appeal. But not everybody in that situation has the mental ability to fight the system. So the perception that the homeless have in some way brought it upon themselves and should just accept the help offered and move into a hostel etc. is nothing more than propaganda. The truth is that there is no safety net for many of them and once they are in that situation it is nothing but a road to early death.
 
So yes if you wish to give cash, please do so. But also lobbying your local MP to stop city wide exclusions to hide a real human crisis would be more than useful. 
 
Christmas giving - Eat well on Universal CeditWe're not really doing Christmas this year. We don't have the money to buy lavish presents, which would probably not be appreciated. Also it seems perverse knowing , as we do, that folk are out there living homeless and often dying. 
 
We have bought gifts for Sue's daughters and my nephew and sent cards to our nearest family and friends. We are however celebrating the fact that we have a roof over our heads and we're not in a tent in The Ings worrying about the rising water level.
 
We are doing everything we can to help the homeless and the charities and groups who are supporting them. Mostly we do this in the background and as much as possible out of sight.
 
So this Christmas we would like to invite our friends to make a donation. 1p would be great, a few more pence would be even better. But please don't feel obliged. All proceeds go directly to The Salvation Army and a select group of homeless charities. If it wasn't for the work and assistance of The Salvation Arm we would still be in a tent and Sue would most likely be dead. Without her I'd be dead anyway.....
 

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