20 Feb 19
AFTER feeding her seven-year-old daughter Bella nothing but leftover chicken drumsticks and sausage rolls for days, single mum Roxy wept.
For the now-stale food was birthday party leftovers, kindly packaged up by another mother who knew that Roxy Thobald, 26, was struggling to survive on Universal Credit.
Roxy relies on handouts from birthday parties to feed her seven-year-old daughter, Bella
Roxy, a self-employed courier driver from Long Stratton in Norfolk, works 20 hours a week but is in debt and unable to afford food.
She blames Universal Credit’s harsh taper rate – in which the government reduces benefit payments at a rate of 63p for every £1 earned over a certain amount – for putting her in this position.
The Sun has highlighted the problems with the taper rate in our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
Roxy says she’d be better off if she was unemployed, and the government is penalising people who want to work.
“I’ve broken down many times but I’m trying to stay strong for my daughter,” she said. “Some weeks I’ve got no cash left to pay for food and we have had to rely on handouts – it is demeaning.
“When Bella went to a kids birthday party her friend’s mum gave us the leftover snacks and we managed on chicken drumsticks and sausage rolls for a few days.
“One neighbour gave us a bag of frozen food when he was having a clear-out.”
‘I’m trying to stay strong for my daughter’
“I don’t know how we are going to manage – the pressure of juggling all the bills is getting too much for me,” said Roxy.
She won’t let her daughter go without a proper school uniform, but all her own clothes are stained and threadbare.
As as a self-employed worker, Roxy is hit by a further blow which sees even more of her benefit slashed.
After she’s paid all her bills Roxy is left with hardly any cash
In a typical month she makes £760 from delivery work, but she has to cover the cost of petrol and any car repairs herself, leaving her with just £430.
However, the taper rate is applied to the full amount Roxy earns, before she pays for petrol, so £393 a month is deducted from her Universal Credit payment of £1,099.
She also has £50 a month deducted for an advance loan that she borrowed from the government, it means after she’s paid all her bills she has just £68 a month or £2.23 a day.
[boxout headline=”The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work” intro=”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 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 UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
‘My daughter knows she can’t be picky with food’
While many parents bend over backwards to cook food that their fussy children will deign to eat, little Bella is used to eating whatever is put in front of her.
“Bella has had to learn that she can’t be picky about food like most seven year-olds,” said Roxy. “She is very grateful for what she gets and she understands that if she doesn’t eat what we’ve got then she will be going hungry.
“We got lots of sweet stuff like leftover chocolates and biscuits people donated after Christmas as well as random jars like pickled cabbage and chutney.”
Roxy makes sure that Bella has a decent school uniform and can go to swimming lessons once a week, but this has meant other sacrifices.
Roxy’s daughter Bella knows she can’t be picky with food or she’ll go hungry
Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.
‘I’d be better off if I was unemployed’
“It’s so demoralising to think that I’d probably be better off if I wasn’t working at all,” Roxy adds. “But it is important to me to get out of the house and contribute to society.
“I’ve battled with depression in the past so I know that working is vital for my mental health.
“I love working and this is the only job I can get that fits around Bella’s school hours, as I don’t have family nearby who I can rely on for childcare.
“All over the Job Centre there are posters that say Universal Credit is ‘making work pay’, so why am I in this position?
“I would probably be better off if I was unemployed.”
Roxy had to ask a relative to help her pay off £1,500 in Christmas debts
‘I took out a doorstep loan as debts mounted up before Christmas’
In run-up to Christmas Roxy had to fall back on doorstep loans to cover heating bills, food and a few presents for Bella.
She said: “I ended up around £1,500 in debt and I was panicking when the agent was due to come round and collect the payments because I didn’t have the money.
“I was so terrified of the debts spiralling out of control that in the end I swallowed my pride and asked my uncle for help to pay them back.”
While the donations from food banks have been a lifeline, it can be difficult to make meals from the odds and ends she gets given.
[boxout headline=”What are Roxy’s outgoings?” intro=”BELOW’s how much Roxy spends each month on herself and daughter Bella.”]
Council tax: £117
Electricity (no gas): £90
Car insurance: £93
Mobile phone: £25
Fridge rental: £20
Pet insurance and vet’s bills for cat: £20
Car tax: £3
Swimming lessons for Bella: £35
School uniform and trips: £20
Total = £1,018
She said: “I can’t remember the last time I bought myself anything to wear. My clothes are all holey and stained.
“Before Universal Credit I used to be able to take Bella to the soft play area or for an occasional trip to the zoo but we can’t do that anymore.”
[article-rail-topic title=”Make Universal Credit work” term_id=”14051″ posts_number=”6″ /]
“It’s completely unfair that I’m worse off because I’m self-employed than I would be if I wasn’t working at all.
“I’m going to keep fighting this for Bella’s sake – I don’t want my daughter to miss out.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “After repayments were made for a number of debts, Ms Theobald received over £1,300 last month in Universal Credit and earnings from her business.
She has declined budgeting support but jobcentre staff are supporting her to pay off other debts.”
The spokesman confirmed that the £1,300 figure did not take into account any deduction from Roxy’s earnings for petrol expenses as a delivery driver.
[bc_video video_id=”5979036383001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Over one million people are on Universal Credit with a further 7million set to be rolled onto it by 2023. But there are BIG problems with the system, The Sun wants to help Make Universal Credit Work”]
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 78 24516. Don’t forget to join the Sun Money’s Facebook group for the latest bargains and money-saving advice.