Southsea carer’s heartbreak: ‘Universal Credit has put me into poverty’

SOARING debt and a dwindling income have left a part-time carer on Universal Credit an ‘emotional wreck’ and now questioning: ‘What’s the point in living’.

Monday, 3rd June 2019, 5:53 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd June 2019, 6:00 pm
Deena Ketley says she barely has enough to live on after delays in her Universal Credit payments led to her falling six weeks behind in her rent Picture: Sarah Standing (070519-8584)

Desperate Deena Ketley has told of her ordeal living on the benefits system, which she raged was ‘keeping the poor, poor’.

The 58-year-old, of Nightingale Road, Southsea, said she was advised to transfer onto the new welfare process by the Department of Work and Pensions after being deemed ineligible for employment support allowance.

She had previously been on allowance for two years while she struggled to overcome a number of physical problems and mental health issues that meant it was hard for her to work full time.

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Deena Ketley says she barely has enough to live on after delays in her Universal Credit payments led to her falling six weeks behind in her rent Picture: Sarah Standing (070519-8584)

But since going onto Universal Credit, Mrs Ketley’s debt has escalated, leaving her in arrears.

She has since had to sign-off from work as a part-time carer - a job she treasured and one that brought in a modest £468 a month - due to stress.

And although she said her Universal Credit payment has started to come through, it only pays for her rent, leaving her with just £2 a month.

She added the payments weren’t backdated, meaning the six weeks of unpaid rent, where she waiting for her first installment, still needed to be paid off.

Picture: JPIMedia

Speaking to The News, Mrs Ketley said: ‘Universal Credit is disgusting. It’s the government’s way of keeping the poor, poor. It has put me back into poverty.

‘When I had a job I was able to buy nice, healthy food. Now I’m back to eating baked beans on toast because I can’t afford expensive cuts of meat.’

She said she had been accepting handouts from her elderly parents, who are both in their 80s, with her father offering her £300 in the past two months alone.

‘If my father hadn’t have been around I would have to be using food banks. Nobody wants to do that, it’s degrading,’ she said.

Picture: JPIMedia

‘I just feel worthless and useless now. I’m having to rely on other people now which I hate doing.

‘That’s something a woman who is almost 60 should never have to do.

‘I was just starting to get back on my feet and build my confidence up with a little job. Now I have that all snatched away from me.

‘My depression has come back, I no longer go outside. I have completely shut down emotionally. I just think to myself “what’s the point in living?”.’

Mrs Ketley has since approached Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, for help, who said he was disgusted by her treatment.

The city Labour leader has now written to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd demanding an overhaul to the system.

Mr Morgan said: ‘I am hugely concerned by the financial turmoil created by the five-week delay in the initial payment, that vulnerable members of the community can struggle with the online nature of the application process and the rise in food bank use as a result of the roll out.’

Mrs Ketley demanded the government takes action to improve the speed at which payments are made under Universal Credit.

She said: ‘Once you claim Universal Credit it takes six weeks for the first payment to come through. For that six weeks you’re left with nothing to pay your rent - and they don’t backdate Universal Credit, so you constantly in arrears and left playing catch up.’

A DWP spokesman said: ‘Universal Credit targets support, so people who are unemployed or on low wages receive more.

‘Universal Credit encourages people to take on more work by tapering off slowly as people earn more – it eliminates the benefits cliff-edge of the old system.’