Some lists leave me weeping, some make me laugh and others leave me feeling enlightened and significantly more educated.  This one from Rowan Lawful is one of those; her frank account of life on ‘Universal Credit’ is a stark reminder to feel grateful to be able to pay the bills. A luxury not afforded by many:

  • I started writing this from the perspective of an onlooker to avoid putting myself firmly in the firing line.

  • But that’s where I am. I claim Universal Credit. 

  • And the shame that I feel about opening up to that fact has been forced upon me by the absolute poison written in The Daily Fail and The Scum, and those who troll and comment online and use social media to spread hate and class bias.

  • This awful culture of ours that thrives off of the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them.

  • We need there to be a ‘them’. ‘They’ make us feel superior. ‘They’ make us feel like life isn’t so bad because at least we aren’t ‘them’.

  • God forbid we do, very, very often by no fault of our own, become ‘them’.

  • The scary thing is. Most of us in society are one or two paydays away from becoming ‘them’. Stop and think about it for a second. You have no income. Your money stops. How long until you become over drawn? How many months can you pay your bills for before you start having final notices and phone calls saying that you are in arrears.

  • You might be made redundant.

  • You might be bullied out of a job or forced to leave because you had a baby.

  • You might be in an abusive relationship and have to leave. Many stay because of the financial implications if you do. When you feel trapped and powerless in your home yet you cannot break away because how will you live?

  • Your partner might walk out on you.

  • You, your partner, your parent or your child could have a long term illness and you have to care for them. Maybe your work aren’t appreciating your absences so they let you go. Reduce your hours to part time. Maybe you make that decision on your own.

  • So many mights and maybes that no-one expects. Nobody deserves. And all of a sudden you are ‘them’. On top of all of this, you have the heavy burdening shame of not only feeling like you have failed but also a deep shame because of how far you’ve fallen.

  • Let me tell you something for nothing, about what happens once you’ve fallen. Once you have fallen and stop judging from afar, during your weekly Waitrose shop or in your black shiny 4X4 at the school gates or even scrolling through facebook on your comfy Next sofa, something happens inside you. You can find a capability that so many of society have forgotten about- humility. The fact that without ‘them’ there would be no us. And actually, why can’t we just simply be that, a ‘we’.

  • Things that I have read over the last couple of days on the topic of Universal Credit and news off the back of the government postponing a nationwide roll out, started to fill me with embarrassment that I was one of these undeserving benefit scroungers. But the more I read, the shame dissipated and in its place was a fire to change the narrative. To change the perception and to try and change the way that people view ‘us’.

  • The Universal Credit System is deeply flawed. And the country is deeply misinformed.

  • Let me address some of the most troubling things I’ve heard or read about those in receipt of UC.

  • Firstly, Universal Credit is not just ‘benefits’ for those who don’t work. Unemployment benefit is just 1 of the 6 elements that make up UC. It is also made up of Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit and Income-Related Employment Support Allowance.

  • This means that those on low incomes, single incomes, single parents, hard working human beings, who once received any of the above now get UC.

  • They deduct your income by 60p for every £1 you earn over £192. So in theory, it is encouraging people to work and they will remain better off than if they don’t. Great news right? Why are people moaning?

  • Because instead of ‘switching’ to UC there are 8 week delays in receiving payment. That means that the income you got before is stopped, and nothing else comes in for 8 weeks. Unfortunately the energy companies, broadband providers, mortgage companies, landlords, and insurance companies don’t stop sending bills. Children don’t suddenly stop needing to be fed.

  • There is a complete disconnect between how the government perceives people should live their lives, and how they actually do.

  • Let me tell you part of a ludicrous problem. If I don’t pay my sky bill- my internet gets cut off. Do you know that I have to check my UC account DAILY for updates and upload everything via the internet. Or I could face a penalty fee of thousands of pounds.

  • I suppose I could go down to the Job Centre, take a day off work to do so, to sit in a room being judged as a ‘benefit scrounger’. But with the holiday I get for the year, I’d like to spend it with my children. Because like most parents I spend my life shuttling them between childcare, school, swimming lessons and doctors appointments. Not failing to mention the dreaded food shopping because once again I’ve forgotten to do it online so now I’m left battling the aisles of Aldi with a moody 5 year old and inconsolable 2 year old.

  • The thing is, I am a normal hard working single mother. I’m a bloody good one at that. I didn’t foresee this in my future, as I’m sure you don’t. But I could be you. One day ‘them’ might become your ‘us’. So let’s just try our best to stop trolling the internet and become a powerful ‘we’. Filled up with compassion, humility, and an understanding that the circumstances we are born into isn’t set in stone. It’s not a birth right. It’s a long journey, and no one can do it alone.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply