Clare Traynor doesn’t know where else to turn amid her ongoing issues with Universal Credit.
She works part-time while caring for her eight-year-old son in Darfield and is entitled to £480 per month.
However finding herself in the middle of an admin problem between her employer and the Department for Work and Pensions, she is now in a position where she says she is owed £480 in unpaid Universal Credit. The DWP has told her she in fact owes them £280.
Clare doesn’t know what she will receive to live on this month or next and has already had to spend three days without hot water or electricity she is so hard up.
The problem arose after a change in the way she was paid by her employer, and two months’ worth of earnings showed up on one pay slip, even though she had received the payments separately.
“I have been working for 12 months as a carer and in January I was told I had to go from being paid every four weeks to being paid every month, on the 21st of every month. That was fine by me, but when my wage slip came through in February it said I had earned more than £1,400 but I hadn’t had that money in my account,” said Clare, 40.
“In March I had no money from Universal Credit and I was told to go to the bank and get proof that I had not had the money in my account.
“I sorted that out but was then told that that was not enough. Then they wanted proof off my manager and they have been leaving weeks to sort this out - but it still hasn’t been sorted out yet.”
Clare said the situation has been so difficult that last week she was without gas and electricity for three days and she is now in rent arrears. She said she has borrowed money from family and friends, but when she gets paid she is left with nothing because she is paying everyone back.
“The issue is that because I’m behind with everything, the money I get from my job goes towards that but I’m not left with any money for the basics like gas, electric, food... It’s awful,” said Clare.
“I have phoned up every day to try and sort this out but nothing. I am so behind with payments and it’s embarrassing having to ask people for money.”
Clare said she has gone to the Citizens Advice Bureau and social services and both services have offered support but there is not much they can do.
“There is nowhere to turn and it is disgusting that as a single parent on my own I can’t get help anywhere. The DWP did a tribunal where they checked but said there is nothing they can do as it’s an issue with the HR department who pays my wages so it is their fault,” said Clare.
“I’ve now got that sorted out so it’s correct but there is still no joy. I even got a message from the DWP saying they don’t owe me anything but I owe them as they say they’ve overpaid me, which hasn’t happened.”
Clare said she is now struggling to cope with all of this going on and that it’s having a massive impact on her mental health. She believes the main thing getting her through the situation is her son Caleb.
“It is making me ill. I split up with my partner last year and I lost my mum to cancer this year, with this as well it has all come together. I’m okay now but when I’m alone I end up in tears. I have had no money for three weeks now and I’m at the end of my tether.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “Ms Traynor has received more than £3,600 in wages and benefits since the beginning of this year.
“To calculate Universal Credit, we take wages into account based on when they are received.
“If someone believe they’ve had the wrong earnings reported they can provide evidence to HMRC to investigate.”