The first instalment of the three-part BBC Two series, Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State, aired last night, taking a look at a number of people’s lives amid their claim for Universal Credit. Among those featuring those was former pub landlord Declan, who was left homeless.
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Declan, 47, spent much of his life running a pub and working in construction, but was made redundant, thus needing to turn to Universal Credit.
Viewers of the BBC Two programme, which began last night, and focused on the Job Centre in Peckham, London, saw Declan’s struggle to find support in order to get him off the streets as well as back into work.
Those watching the episode first find Declan having been unemployed and on Universal Credit for eight months. In the documentary, it’s explained he was made homeless three days ago.
He explains he has no money in the bank, and 19 days to go until his next Universal Credit payment.
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Universal Credit UK: Declan spoke about his struggle during the BBC documentary (Image: BBC)
The night before, he awoke in the park to find two people rummaging through his bag – prompting him to sleep in a train station instead.
Declan receives £262 per month via Universal Credit, after money is deducted to pay back two Universal Credit advances.
“I didn’t think I’d find myself 47 years of age on the streets,” he says, holding back tears.
During his visit for help at the JobCentre, he calls a number to request help for shelter, and is told they will try to – however it could be one to three days.
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“I don’t want to be on this Universal Credit,” he tells the BBC. “I really don’t. I want to be out working. I want to take a wage home every week. That’s simple. That’s what I want to be able to do, I want to be able to live a bit. I just want to pay my way.”
Declan has lived in the area for around 34 years, and walks past a pub he used to run around 20 years ago, as well as passing the house he lived in when his son was born.
For most of his life, Declan worked in the pub and construction industry, but when he was made redundant, he needed to start a claim for Universal Credit.
“It’s not for the lack of trying to get a job,” he says as he details his struggle to find work. “I had my CSCS card and sent out 15 applications every day, just to get a labouring job. That’s even hard now.”
Universal Credit: BBC viewers saw Declan make a visit to a food bank in order to eat (Image: BBC)
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He adds: “They’re literally only one pay cheque away from the gutter, because [if] you’ve got no place to stay and you’ve no base, you’re shot.”
Having been homeless for two weeks, Declan manages to get temporary accommodation with the help of Job Centre staff, but he still faces six days without electricity, a microwave, or even furniture.
He is told he cannot get another advance to help him, and must wait for his next payment – at which point repayments from his advances will automatically be taken from his money.
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Declan applies for a feedback voucher, just so he can eat.
He explains that he’s allowed three in six months, and tells the reporter: “I’ve had three in two and a half weeks, I think.”
Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State continues on Tuesday on BBC Two at 9pm.
Do you claim Universal Credit? If you’d like to share your story, get in touch by emailing [email protected].