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I despair for everyone caught up in this nightmare

PUBLISHED: 14:22 07 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 March 2017

Jobcentre Plus on Pottergate.  Picture:: James Bass

Jobcentre Plus on Pottergate. Picture:: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

The cruel facts of universal credit - a system foisted on claimants to replace the current system with a streamlined one-size-fits-all method of paying benefits.

To a family suffering the actual reality, UC. is inefficient, confusing, flawed and spiteful.

It uses a series of tick boxes to assess the client, completely missing the point we do not live our lives in tick boxes.

The rules change daily and staff at the Job Centre and Grey Friars Way deserve credit in continuing to help in the face of contradictions and confusion.

For decades council rent has been paid straight to the housing department. So, whose daft idea was it to change a seamless, foolproof system paying instead, a month’s chunk of rent directly to the tenant.

Of course some will comply but what of people with chronic money problems.

It isn’t rocket science to guess some of the money will not reach it’s destination.

I know it is down to the tenant but tell that to small children when the eviction notices arrive.

I have never drawn a benefit in my life but we are not all made the same. Many claimants can’t cope or have mental problems, some are very vulnerable or are just simply ill. Surely for them a system of prevention and guidance is more help than tick boxes

People are being press ganged onto this trial to iron out every hitch, glitch and flaw before UC is rolled out to the rest of the country.

In effect Great Yarmouth is an expendable casualty.

With no warning claimants’ money is stopped for up to six weeks as the new method is implemented. Families are suffering. Nothing destroys relationships more than not having enough to live on. The rise in debt is mirrored in lengthening queues at money lenders such as Wonga. Apparently UC took four years to plan.

Why isn’t it straight forward, sensible, more kind, Do-able

My son was on ESA due to a long standing leg injury. He was transferred to UC five months ago.

His money was simultaneously reduced by a third and suspended for six weeks. Are people not to eat, pay their bills, keep warm. Buy cleaning products, a bar of chocolate. My son took out a loan to help during those six weeks. We made up the difference. UC duly commenced and he was paid £276 for the following 31 days but nothing to cover the previous six weeks.

They deducted £48 loan repayment and £44 bedroom tax leaving a balance of £184 for each month’s living expenses. He only manages with help from our ever decreasing savings. What about those who have no-one to turn to. The council are already owed huge sums.

Council tax will rise, crime will go up and homelessness will increase. All of us will pay in the end.

Believing the six weeks back rent was already paid and now receiving basic living expenses together with the rent now to be paid from his account to the rent office. Therefore it came as a shock when my son received a court summons stating he owed several hundred pounds in back rent. He made enquiries. Not only had the six weeks back rent not been paid to him it had not been paid to the council either.

Bank statements plainly show the six weeks money has not been paid into his bank. In vain we have written, phoned, attended meetings. No one will listen.

The rent department agree that he has not received the money but insists he still has to pay it. While we were frantically seeking help the court ruled my son owes £600 in rent and £330 costs, to be deducted at £10 p.w. leaving him with £174 per month. It is dishonest and outrageous.

We are at our wit’s end what to do. The council won’t help, local solicitors offering legal aid will not touch UC problems and two letters plus three visits to the local MP’s office bring murmurs of sympathy but an unshakeable response - “the court says you owe this money and we can’t interfere with the law.”

Excuse me, not even when the law is wrong?

We have asked to appeal, the court demands £220 up front with no guarantee. Can anyone please advise us.

I am in despair for us, for everyone caught up in the nightmare of this dreadful regime.

PATRICIA WEST.

By email

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