TESTIMONY. “I’ve been living on aid for 17 years, but I’m still struggling”

TESTIMONY. “I’ve been living on aid for 17 years, but I’m still struggling”
TESTIMONY. “I’ve been living on aid for 17 years, but I’m still struggling”

Mother of a family and forced to reduce her professional activity for health reasons, Alicia Cartwright has been receiving welfare benefits for almost 20 years. She currently receives a supplement from the Universal Child Allowance (equivalent to the Family Allowance in France) and the Personal Independence Benefit (PIP) with several part-time administrative jobsas explained The Mirror.

But even for Alicia, the benefits system is a real labyrinth. “It’s complex and sometimes incredibly confusing“, she denounces. “I have the impression that it was not designed by people who had already used social assistance“. She remembers the obstacles encountered when she first applied for benefits. “It was intimidating and confusing. I had to make a series of appointments at the employment center to obtain medical certificates and contact different telephone numbers for each service. It was a nightmare“, she explained.

“There are advantages and disadvantages”

His experience with Universal Credit, supposed to simplify procedures, was not more conclusive. “There are pros and cons“, she nuances. “It’s simpler to have most services bundled together, but that also poses problems“. She points in particular the risk of having your allowance suspended for obscure reasons. “And because it’s all lumped together, that means loss of all income until they sort it out“.

Due to his activity fluctuations linked to his state of health, Alicia must regularly declare changes on her Universal Credit application. These changes often result in summons to the employment center, frequently scheduled shortly before the payment of their allowance, which causes delays. “Sometimes I notify them of changes weeks in advance, but there is always a delay“, she explains. “The longest delay was a week, which may not seem like much. But when the landlord demands the rent, the electricity bill has to be paid and the children need to eat, it’s an endless period“.

Is the system ultimately unsuitable for work realities?

The worst being that working more does not necessarily translate into an improvement in your financial situation, denounces Alicia. Indeed, the declaration of additional income entails the suspension of his payments so that his benefits can be recalculated. “This can cause a domino effect on many aspects“, she explains. “We can find ourselves in an inextricable financial situation, through no fault of our own.“. She has also paid the price in the past, forced to resort to payday loans following calculation errors by the DWP (British equivalent of France Travail) having reduced his allowances.

I work, but my salary is not enough to cover my expenses and when Universal Credit malfunctions, where does that leave me? I had to borrow a few hundred euros at a timebut because of interest rates it cost me a lot more.”, she explains, “I’m still trying to get back on track financially, but constant repayments and one mistake can be catastrophic because you already have very little room to maneuver“.

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