Desperate Hampshire families on Universal Credit turn to begging online to survive

DESPERATE families on Universal Credit have been forced to beg for money online after struggling to survive on meagre state handouts, The News can reveal

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 1:05 pm
Universal credit is causing hardship

More than 800 campaigns linked to the controversial benefit have been set up on crowdfunding site GoFundMe in the past year – a five-fold rise from the year before.

Among them included at least 20 from across Hampshire, with seven campaigns linked to residents in Portsmouth, three in Gosport, and one in both Fareham and Havant areas.

The situation has been branded ‘really quite shocking’ by poverty charity Turn2us.

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The trade union UNITE have held a protest against Universal Credit outside Tesco in Cosham. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (080719-3)

Data shared exclusively with JPIMedia – which owns The News – by GoFundMe revealed more than 1,100 crowdfunding campaigns have mentioned Universal Credit since 2013.

They received more than 6,000 donations, raising at least £250,000, according to the website.

As many of the campaigns are no longer live, JPIMedia cannot say in what context the benefit was mentioned in the appeals.

More than £500,000 has also been donated to campaigns mentioning food banks, although the data will include any appeals for pet food banks or overseas food banks.

The area with the highest number of crowdfunding campaigns was Birmingham, with 39, followed by Glasgow, with 32.

Portsmouth was the joint-highest in Hampshire, alongside Southampton, which also recorded seven such campaigns.

While the overall number of fundraisers set up on GoFundMe has risen by some 38 per cent in the past year, the number mentioning Universal Credit has grown far more rapidly, which the site attributed partly to the benefit’s continuing roll-out.

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There are currently around 2.5 million people now on Universal Credit in the UK.

Sara Willcocks, of poverty charity Turn2us, said: ‘Our social security system was created in the 20th century to stop people from going hungry and having to rely on the generosity of strangers for help. Needless to say, the scale of people in a 21st century society having to resort to crowdfunding so they can survive day to day is really quite shocking.’

A spokesman for GoFundMe added: ‘The powerful thing about tools such as GoFundMe is people adapt them to the needs they have. We hope one day that people will not need to crowdfund to be able to meet basic needs. Until then, our tools are here for people to give and get help when people are in need.’

Regionally, 125 campaigns mentioning ‘Universal Credit’ were recorded from the south-east on GoFundMe – the third-highest in Britain, behind only London and the north west.

The Department for Work and Pensions said people on Universal Credit can get paid urgently if they need it.

A spokesman said: ‘Universal Credit provides a vital safety net for people who are out of work or on low wages with more than 2.5 million people supported by it.

‘It’s a better, simpler system that will see 700,000 families get on average £285 more a month than under the previous one.

‘And as we’ve rolled it out, we’ve made improvements such as increasing advances to 100 per cent, removing the seven day waiting period and continuing Housing Benefit for the first two weeks.’