SHOPPERS in Cosham came across an imposing, yet familiar figure at the weekend, as the Grim Reaper popped into town.
People were seen grabbing selfies with the angel of death earlier today, who towered above the other shoppers in the high street.
But the Grim Reaper’s presence, in his own words, was intended to warn people of something he believes to be more sinister – the impact of universal credit on Portsmouth families.
He was joined by campaigners who are petitioning against the roll-out of universal credit, saying that it is doing huge damage to families, landlords and services such as the food bank.
Ward councillor for Charles Dickens, Cllr Claire Udy, said: ‘I have residents in my ward who are terrified of the five-week waits for payment when they are already in arrears.
‘People are worrying about how they are even going to eat – there’s a high rate of poverty in the ward and we’re finding that the universal credit changeover is affecting even families in work.
‘These are people you would never expect to see in a food bank because they have full-time jobs, but it just goes to show that absolutely everyone can be affected by the universal credit changes.
‘It’s impacting the council as it prepares for the changeover, but also services like the food banks that are having more people coming through the front door.’
Labour Party campaigner Sue Castillon says that universal credit is also impacting people’s mental health in the city.
She explained: ‘We’re gathering data on how universal credit is affecting people in Portsmouth and are putting together a petition against it.
‘Some families are finding it very difficult to get started – and we’re hearing a lot of hardship from people who have just 50p a week to live on due to the delays in payments.
‘The whole system is so complicated and we have heard cases of people across the UK being made homeless or even committing suicide over universal credit.’
Alan Burgess, Unite community coordinator, said: ‘We have been leafleting outside the Jobcentre and have come across people who have seen their debts amplified by universal credit.
‘We’re still at the point where people have heard about universal credit but don’t fully understand it. It was very similar with the Poll Tax back in 1990, where it was dripped into society and then had a massive impact across the country.’