Over half of Chesterfield residents have bad experience of claiming Universal Credit, report shows

The holiday hunger protest outside Chesterfield Town Hall.
The holiday hunger protest outside Chesterfield Town Hall.

A demonstration has been held outside Chesterfield Town Hall to highlight concerns about children going hungry during the school summer holidays.

The demonstration - which included a statue of a youngster with an empty lunchbox - came after Chesterfield-based Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centres (DUWC) conducted a survey asking 107 people about their experiences of claiming Universal Credit, which replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment and is paid monthly.

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More than half of people surveyed, 57 per cent, said they had a bad experience of claiming Universal Credit - with comments including 'makes people worse off', 'insufficient money - very depressing' and 'it is hard waiting five to six weeks for money'.

Forty-seven per cent of people spoken to said they had used a foodbank at least once and 57 per cent said they had to rely on friends and family to help them out.

The survey also found that 56 per cent of respondents said they were in rent arrears, 27 per cent had been threatened with eviction and 8.5 per cent said they had actually been evicted.

A spokesperson for DUWC said: "Universal Credit, far from being a route to employment, appears for many to be a pathway to destitution.

"The figures should be making Government take notice of the problems it is creating for the health of its citizens as well as their precarious financial position.

"Our survey showed that parents were far more likely to face difficulties in the school holidays as well as finding it hard to make ends meet at birthdays, Christmas and other religious events.

"The situation concerning rent arrears and evictions is alarming. It makes no sense, under the auspices of saving money for the exchequer, to plunge people into serious financial problems with life changing consequences that bring a greater burden to the taxpayer in the long run.

"It appears that despite knowing how Universal Credit is forcing people into poverty, the Government is still intent on ploughing ahead regardless, pushing families to the brink of survival."

Twenty-two per cent of people surveyed by DUWC spoke positively about Universal Credit.

The Government has defended Universal Credit, insisting it 'helps people into work faster than the old system and provides targeted support'.