I recall having a disastrous experience of switching from legacy benefits to universal credit.
I received a telephone call from the DWP to tell me I hadn't scored any points during my ESA assessment. I remember the lady was very blunt and matter of fact about it. I felt she may have well simply accused me of being a bared faced liar about my health condition. I was in complete and utter shock. So much so, I started shouting at her down the phone can't remember what was said exactly but I felt very hurt angry and devastated. I definitely wasn't prepared for her news.
Still stunned I asked her what I was supposed to live on instead? There was barely enough as it was along with child benefit, child tax credit, and housing benefit to live on. My rent was a good deal higher than social housing rent too. She offered to put my call through to the Universal credit claim line. Still in total disbelief I agreed to this, with a vague idea that this was the end of my legacy benefits once and for all.
I had heard on the grapevine it wasn't advisable to claim UC, but when your backs against the wall, its either that or nothing. I knew I could and would appeal their decisions however, I simply couldn't wait the 12 to 18 months it might take to go through that process.
Still in shock, I tried to pay attention to what the call handler was explaining over the phone to me about a job centre appointment. I completely blanked out when he gave me an appointment to attend the jobcentre as I was by then just going through the motions of replying but not really registering what was being said to me.
Obviously as a consequence of this I totally messed up my actual appointment with staff a few days later. I had missed it altogether, turned up at the wrong time wrong day. Staff treated me with distain. I broke down on the spot by this point. Started hyperventilating, and having a panic attack in front of everyone, very humiliating.
Staff there did their best to assist me, they were able to offer me another appointment almost the next day I think. I remember a lady saw me as distressed as I was, must have been a bit for a scene to see, but she slipped a tiny piece of paper inconspicuously under my snivelling nose and streaming eyes. On it was written the words, "Work and Benefits". She discreetly gestured and spoke to me quietly, "you need them" then she slipped away again.
When your whole world caves in on you in one foul swoop, in the heat of the moment, you really have no reference point to know how to deal with things, whether emotional or practical. The whole situation felt more devastating to me because of the fact that this condition is difficult to wrap your head around as it is. I have had to shuffle around on my bottom at times, my son (about 8 years old at the time) would see me in tears and push up the corners of my mouth whilst laughing nervously because he wanted to help me through the ordeal so badly.
Coming to terms with the fact that continuous debilitating pain is not always seen by the untrained eye, has been a tough enough journey, I naively assumed qualified DWP "health professionals" could easily recognise how difficult things were for me. But assessments with the DWP don't work like that. Bad enough when my own doctors and specialists knowing next to nothing about it either. Even giving me the wrong advice.
Despite getting my initial claim for UC sorted out promptly - the appointment to sign on, provide all my details and evidence, we still had the misery of a 5 week wait for any payments to filter through. We had to use food banks to help us though till we were paid. Once I received the first payment I kept expecting there to be more in my bank each month. I believe we lost income of about £150 per month in the switch over from ESA to UC.
Once I eventually won my ESA appeal, about 9 months later there was no going back to it. Also had to challenge the DWP about the initial 3 months of my claim. Apparently they "forgot" to apply legislation stating I was eligible for back dated pay to reflect a continuous claim for LCWRA when I switched from ESA. "Forgot"? Yeh, whatever.
So I was originally seven years ago on child tax credit and after divorce, while separation, I was forced to change to go into universal credit. The major struggle I found with that is I had six weeks, and this was over the Christmas period as well, six weeks of my only income being my carer's allowance, which went down by just over 30 pounds a week because it went from a couple joint claim to a single claim. And for some reason, that knocks the money down even though there's only one of you. And the child benefit was the only money we had coming in and my youngest DLA. So for six weeks we were literally living hand to mouth and having to use the food bank. The only drawback I found from going and switching to universal credit is the six weeks delay, although, yes, they do offer an advanced payment. I chose not to take this as I did not want to have a debt hanging over me. But with hindsight, I think I would have taken if I had to do it again, I would have taken the advance. But I originally found a massive struggle raising three children on my own with no income and everything stopped for six weeks.
I feel under a lot of pressure to try to use these supermarket vouchers up before they expire. Why on earth don't they have a longer expiry date on them than 3 weeks though? (8/6/23)
I know they are targeting them at me to spend more money but costs are not likely to return to a more manageable amounts so who can afford not to invest in future savings?
Am I kidding myself I'll benefit financially, by the time I spent the points I've saved?
I know they say money makes the world go round but I find it rather sad when our focus morning noon and night always turns to our finances. Since recently having a smart meter fitted, my friend enjoys telling me how much he's saving on his spending. Firstly he's not hooked up for his gas supply as yet, although he prides himself as a single man living off approximately 40p per day on average for electric usage... I was flabbergasted by how low it was, but then he's no family to look after, he's on pre energy cost increase tariffs till winter 2023 and the likelihood is he's probably not washed anything in days!! Alarming I know but then so is the reminder we are being charged well over the amount we would have been paying pre April 2022!!!
Just to add some perspective on costs, our in house display shows usage at over a £1 before we've even got going with a morning cuppa?!
Lately, when not too poorly to lift a finger, I've spent a great deal of time researching into the validity of claims by the government that more people are benefiting from the measures to widen the Warm Home Discount scheme.
Yesterday my MP sent all the details about the scheme from their libraries.
To my thinking it looks like more "smoke & mirrors" from the government.
For a start there's nothing to say what your "Energy Cost Score"
might even be?
There was a consultation held back in 2021, although 2 benefits experts tell me they didn't even know about it.
Furthermore, data held by the VOA to determine characteristics about your house could be out of date or wrong.
I'm no plumber but I've even found out roughly how to calculate BTUs. It's not an exact science but the ground floor in my house is approx. 217064 of them? It's a volume measurement multiplied by 5 or 6 depending on the type/age of the property.
It doesn't take a mathematician like Sunak wants us all to be, to figure out my 2 small radiators aren't sufficient enough to generate that amount of heat for the whole ground floor.
Yet I don't qualify as being in fuel poverty according to their latest algorithms.
It also seems the algorithm made an assumption, that as a terraced property we only have front & rear external walls where in fact we have an entry way between myself & one of the neighbours properties.
In fact I have plenty of thermal images which indicate the coldest walls in dark blue happen to be all around 3 sides of the house
Not only this, but as I have said before there are no longer internal walls to the hall or dining room. So where the room sizes would have been much smaller with adequate radiators to each room, there are only the remaining 2 radiators now.
I had to increase the flow rate of the boiler to 75°f to feel any benefit from having the heating on at all. So there's no chance of reducing it to save money.
I really feel there's an injustice being done here. It's eating away at me.
I'm compelled to find out more. Because it feels as though many more people are loosing out since the change in rules.
My energy efficiency rating is "E". I've already approached the landlord about improving the energy efficiency following a survey on the place. Unfortunately he's not willing to dig into his pockets to increase it.
There once would have been a working fireplace but that is no longer a functional heating solution either.
Hi there. My experiences of eating and buying food on a budget are perhaps a bit different to others involved in the project. For me, it very much depends on physical limitations, i.e. when or how long I can cook for, what or when I can buy food and what I feel well enough to eat.
I try to keep a variety of basic ingredients in at all times and a choice of convenience items in for when I'm feeling unwell. Otherwise, I end up reaching for junk or scraps. I'd like to think I support my son to take care of himself too, so he doesn't go hungry, although I've noticed he still needs prompting to eat at all unless I instruct him to.
Unfortunately, I'm definitely not a keen or expert chef at the best of times.
Beans on toast is perfectly fine in my book! Although we have been known to resort to ready meals whenever there's been a family crisis going on. Not ideal but when you're not well anything goes. Even cornflakes.
In the past I would find it soul destroying to have made a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients then to have the children refuse to eat it.
Because of this I used to dish up oven chips and nuggets most nights, to satisfy my children's hunger when they were young. Not exactly nutritious but at least it was all eaten without tears. I don't know how I would cope nowadays since the oven has become so expensive to use and food prices have rocketed.
More recently we were lucky enough to be able to afford to buy a multi cooking pot. This really helps with making mealtimes easy and saves on cost. I saw it as worthwhile investment. In the long term I believe it will save us more money than using the oven and cooker top.
In addition, one pot recipes work best for me. There are a few different versions I make from time to time. They include a variation of simple cheap ingredients and the leftovers can be easily frozen or reheated. My favourite at the moment, is a Russian dish, with seasoned rice, chicken and carrot I saw on the internet. Not mega expensive easy and comforting to eat.
I'm probably being too hard on myself when I say this but I hate when food goes to waste. I've even been known to return food items with faulty packaging i.e. jars or tins I can't open. I often need to throw out random items of food that are past their sell by dates, which really frustrates me. Unfortunately, trying to feed my son and I meals we will both actually eat when I'm tired or unwell doesn't always line up with what we have available in the kitchen and this is a big problem for us. I'm lucky to get extra money to help me with this, however, it still makes accessing fresh groceries difficult to do. There's no homegrown food going on around here unfortunately.
Having to think a week ahead to what we can have to eat each night, on top of everything else going on, is a real juggling act for me. Worse still if there's no practical help limited finances and not a lot of imagination or ideas available to a person to conjure up magnificent meals in the first place. It's a fact that my own upbringing influenced my lack of ability when it comes to having creative culinary skills. At least for now I can look out for new and easy recipes to cook since buying this cooking pot and there's always the novelty of the airfryer to fall back on.
I know lots of people are switching to cheaper food brands these days. We find this hit and miss. There's only myself and my son here. Unfortunately he's a bit fussy with food and can sniff a cheaper cereal out in his sleep so not much scope for me switching lunch box treats for cheaper alternatives. It's still a work in progress getting him trained in the art of eating things he isn't used to.
Although if I'm honest its easier and cheaper to play it safe, sticking to the same meals on and off.
I used to believe I ate healthy and nutritious enough until a few years ago, when blood tests for an infection revealed my immune system was deficient in several areas. That was a shock. I looked into things and I supplement my diet now, with vitamin tablets to safeguard my immune system health. I eat probiotics occasionally fruit and veg all the time. We eat mainly fish, chicken, eggs, cheese and rice. No allergies. I try to be a good role model to my family, but I really need to lay off the chocolate left over from Christmas if I'm honest!