A MUM on Universal Credit says she's been forced to perform sex acts to survive, a government inquiry into the controversial benefit has heard.
Her evidence, heard at the Work and Pensions Committee's inquiry into Universal Credit, has caused the cross-party group of MPs to call on the government to slash the current five-week wait for the benefit.
The Sun has been calling for the five-week wait to be cut to just two weeks as part of its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
Universal Credit (UC) merges six separate benefits into one single payment, paid monthly in arrears.
You can apply for an advance to tie you over during the five-week wait for the benefit but any cash given is a loan, with the payments being deducted from your eventual benefits.
'I left the baby next door and when down to the shop'
And Committee of MPs heard that this is pushing people to perform "survival sex" just to make ends meet.
One mum, who had been caught shoplifting as she didn't have enough cash for food and bills, was told by the shop owner that he wouldn't call the police if she performed oral sex on him.
She said: "The manager said if I gave him [oral sex] he’d let me off. What could I do? It was that or have the police called. I just did it.
"Anyway, he said afterwards that if I did the same next week he’d let me have forty quid’s worth of stock. It seemed like a fortune."
She added: "In the end, I held out for two weeks. I got my Universal Credit money, and again it was short, and again it was gone on bills before I’d even thought of food.
"So, I left the baby with next door and went down to the shop… It’s been like that for months now."
And sadly she isn't alone. A former care worker who had been abused as a child told the committee that she started sex work because Universal Credit payments were not enough to cover her basic living costs.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
She said: "You always get asked the question, like if you ring [DWP] for a hardship payment or something because you’re without, they will always ask you, “Have you got a family member you can—”.
"And sometimes you don’t want to explain where your mum and dad are or if you even know them… It is horrible."
Another mum who is currently on tax credits and due to move onto Universal Credit is worried she'll have to go back to lapdancing to make ends meet as she reckons she'll be £200 a month worse off.
'I have children. I will sell my body'
She said: "The thought of going into debt and having no money is really frightening. I have children. I can’t do that. I will sell my body…
"There are a lot of girls out there just like me. The women that I met at the strip club are all single mums doing their studies. We all need the extra money."
Here at The Sun, we've spoken to a mum who was "forced to become a phone sex worker" and another who sleeps with men for £10 because Universal Credit’s left her and her son destitute.
The Committee is now calling on the government to now scrap the five-week wait for payments and to off non-repayable advances to vulnerable claimants who would otherwise suffer hardship.
Frank Field MP and chair of the Committee, said: “The women who gave evidence to us were courageous enough to share some enormously difficult and distressing experiences, in the hope of helping us and the department to better understand this issue…
"Welcome though that was, that cannot be the end of it. The department, having belatedly acknowledged that there is a problem, must take the steps to resolve it.”
The Sun has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
It told the BBC that it was "committed to providing a safety net for the most vulnerable in society".
DWP added that it had made improvements to Universal Credit, including extending advance payments, removing waiting days and allowing claimants to continue to be paid housing benefit for two weeks after moving on to the benefit.
If you're struggling, we explain what a Universal Credit advance payment is, how do you apply and when you have to pay it back.
You may also qualify for a Universal Credit Flexible Support Fund payment that you don't have to pay back.
Former secretary for state, Amber Rudd, has already admitted that the five-week Universal Credit wait is "really hard".
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