Many will be aware that the government is planning to cut universal credit and working tax credit by £20 a week in October even though this money has been a lifeline for families across the country during the pandemic. It was brought in because the government recognised that families needed more to live on. Many believe that this is still the case and that it is wrong for the government to take away this support.
Here at Warrington Housing Association we have tenants who are in receipt of these benefits and who are already fearful of the consequences that this reduction will have on their finances and subsequently their living conditions, quality of lives and mental health.
We talked to one resident who has previously sought help from our financial advice team and who wanted to share his story to help people understand why it’s so important to persuade MPs and the government not to take this lifeline away.
Mr Pearson moved into his Warrington Housing Association (WHA) property during a very difficult period of his life. He had been experiencing severe mental health problems and had fallen into significant debt. He was behind with his mortgage payments and his property was on the verge of being repossessed. This resulted in him making the decision to sell his flat to use the proceeds to pay back his debts before securing a rented property from WHA.
He believed he had instructed his solicitor to pay off the debts as part of the property sale. After a few years however he was contacted by various debt collection agencies and an enforcement agent. He had little memory of what happened when he sold the property due to the state of his mental health at the time and so he contacted WHA’s Money Adviser for help. After obtaining documents from the solicitor who dealt with the sale of the property, it was confirmed that there were indeed debts outstanding. Affordable offers of payment were accepted by the debt collection agencies and after a long battle with the enforcement agent and the local council, a payment arrangement was finally put in place. Mr Pearson said “I’m so grateful for the support from WHA’s Money Adviser. I really feel like I couldn’t have sorted this out by myself.”
During the period since Mr Pearson sold his property he has strived to improve his financial situation, securing work in a warehouse whilst having his income topped up by Universal Credit. He has sought employment advice and had had training to re-skill. This hasn’t been plain sailing, and in fact has proved really difficult on a low income with the extra cost of having to pay an internet connection plus buy a laptop to complete his training. It has been a huge struggle but he has managed to successfully move into a higher paid field because of this.
Regrettably, Mr Pearson suffered a heart attack recently and had to undergo surgery. He is now feeling well and has managed to return to work but he has had to rely on just basic Universal Credit payments during his recovery. Mr Pearson said “I feel like I keep taking one step forward and two steps back. Having someone there to talk to and help me with my finances has been a huge help and has kept me feeling more positive.”
Mr Pearson is one of many people set to lose £20 per week in their Universal Credit payments from October 2021 following the Government’s refusal to make the uplift put in place at the start of the COVID pandemic permanent. Mr Pearson says “losing the extra £20 a week Universal Credit will have a massive impact on me. Even though I’m working I’m still living close to the edge with barely two pennies to rub together, and really just working to survive. Taking away this vital support will push me past the tipping point.”
We offer a free money advice service for our residents that helps them to feel free from money struggles and worries. We can offer advice and assistance with debts, benefits and budgeting. Contact us here if you want to see if can help you.