Universal Credit leaves dad-of-three without heating and relying on foodbanks

A father-of-three has admitted his shame at having no other choice but to turn to a foodbank after a letter blunder left him without benefits.

Ian Reynolds, from Stafford, has also been living without heating and forgoing baths because he cannot afford to pay for gas.

The unemployed 51-year-old’s plight started after his Universal Credit was stopped because he failed to respond to letters sent to the wrong address – five doors away.

His payments were sanctioned without warning because he did not respond to the messages concerning Jobcentre appointments.

The Department for Work and Pension (DWP) made the benefit cut decision in September, reports Birmingham Live.

Since then the dad has been living on monthly ‘hardship payments’ of £187 and receiving support from the House of Bread charity.

Ian said: "My experience of Universal Credit has been absolutely terrible, they have sanctioned me because of their mistake.

"They sent me five or six appointment letters which went to 41 when I live at 46, which I can prove because I have the paperwork.

"The first I knew of it was when I went to the Post Office and the money wasn’t there.

"When I pointed out that it was their mistake, they said they sent me a text message, which I never received. I think they were just trying to cover their backs.

"I wouldn’t trust this lot to run a bath tub, let alone a Government department."

Ian, who lives in a housing association flat, had been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance after he was let go from warehouse job he had found through an agency.

He was then moved over to Universal Credit in May this year after it was introduced in Stafford, and would be entitled to around £250 without the sanction.

The dad has had to "swallow his pride" and accept help from the House of Bread, which offers food, clothing and advice from its base in Browning Street, Stafford.

In the meantime, he is looking for work and waiting on an appeal against the sanction, with a decision due at the end of November.

"I’ve got electricity but that’s about it, I can’t afford gas, which means I can’t have a bath or heat my home," Ian said.

"I go to my family when I can but they are leading their own lives and are experiencing the same kind of difficulties I am.

"I’m just fortunate that it’s only me, there must be families who are stuck in exactly the same situation.

"The hardest part is swallowing my pride and going to the foodbanks, which I’ve never had to do before."

One of the main criticisms of Universal Credit has been that it has a ‘punitive’ nature which punishes claimants for missing appointments or failing to reply to messages even when it is no fault of their own.

"My appeal has gone to the Department for Work and Pensions, and they are not going to admit they’re wrong," Ian said.

"We’re not people to them, we’re just meaningless numbers. I don’t call it the Jobcentre any more, I call it the joke shop."

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “The reasons for people using foodbanks are complex, and it would be wrong to link a rise to any one cause.

“With Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

"It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“No one should have to face hardship with Universal Credit and we have made 100% advances available from day one.”

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