While the Department of Work and Pensions, or DWP, told the Salford Star last week that the rollout of Universal Credit, from 'live' to 'full' in the city 'should have no impact', the horror cases, according to the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre (SUCRC), are coming 'thick and fast'.
"I think it needs saying that this isn't a cock up, it's a deliberate vindictive attack on working class people" says Barbara Bentham, who also works as a benefit appeals officer at SUCRC.
The latest disgraceful episode regarding Universal Credit relates to a woman who 'migrated' from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to the new benefit and was told to live on just £190 per month after rent, or around £47 per week...
"I moved into my own property with my younger brother, so applied for housing benefit and they told me I need to go onto Universal Credit" she tells the Salford Star "When I went to take my ID in, they said 'It's going to be a couple of weeks before you get your payment so we can give you an advance payment of £540, but you have to pay it back at so much a month'.
"I agreed to pay back £54 a month but before I agreed I asked how much I'd be getting a month and he said around the same figure" she explains "So I agreed to it and got my first payment last week of £190, for a month. I phoned them up and asked if there was anything they could do, but no.
"How am I going to manage? I haven't got a clue, I don't know" she adds "It's disgusting. Everyone I phone sounds shocked but they're not bothered. It's going to be heating or eating, one or the other."
To make matters worse, her father died of a heart attack recently shortly after being told he was fit for work. At the time, he was waiting for a further DWP appeal...
"He had appealed at a tribunal, lost unfairly, and we challenged that at an upper tribunal which agreed with me" recalls Barbara Bentham "So it was listed to be reheard but he died while waiting. We've got a letter from his doctor saying that, while he can't categorically state that the stress caused his heart attack it certainly didn't help."
The further appeal is being heard this week in retrospect but now the system is persecuting his daughter...
"We're helping her to challenge these decisions" Barbara adds "Under the old legacy benefit system, if somebody had a series of crisis loans they were paid off one at a time and there was a limit of how much they could take. They had to leave you with a liveable amount. That cap has now been lifted."
There are now fears that, with 3,700 Salford claimants being told to 'migrate' from 'live' Universal Credit to the 'full service' within the next four weeks, similar cases are going to multiply...
"Cramming 3,700 claims into four weeks? They haven't got the staff, the expertise or the systems" argues SUCRC Manager Alec McFadden "It's going to particularly affect people who don't have computers or the ability to use computers.
"Esther McVey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, should be sacked immediately" he adds "It's completely heartless, and this will run up to 24th December and probably end with people coming into Christmas with no money. It's horrendous.
"You worry that it will reach a stage where it becomes normal. It seems that every month it gets worse" he says "Add to this the fact that benefits have been frozen since 2014 so with inflation you've actually seen a cut."
And Barbara Bentham, who is on the front line of the Universal Credit horrors seeing more appeal cases every day, concludes... "They know how bad it is and they know how many people are going to be worse off but they continue to roll it out anyway – it's just heartless..."
Meanwhile, the young woman forced to live on less than £50 a week is facing a bleak Christmas.
See also previous Salford Star articles...
Horror As Thousands of Salford Universal Credit Claimants Could Have No Money For Christmas – click here
79% of Salford Universal Credit Claimants in Rent Arrears – click here
Salford Trades Council Condemns Citizens Advice Bureau for £39Million Universal Credit Collaboration – click here