News: Cash-strapped mum on Universal Credit is now vegetarian because she can’t afford meat

News: Cash-strapped mum on Universal Credit is now vegetarian because she can’t afford meat

Another Lincolnshire Highlights news story…

A woman on Universal Credit has become a vegetarian because she can no longer afford to buy meat.

Mum-of-three Jennifer Spice has suffered heartache over the last three years after her husband Haydn lost his cancer battle and she was made redundant from her job in customer services.

The 52-year-old says her financial woes have not been helped by the controversial Universal Credit (UC) changes, Stoke-on-Trent Live report.

She is now one of 43 researchers who have gone into communities on behalf of Staffordshire University and the Hardship Commission to try to lift the lid on what life is really like below the breadline in Stoke-on-Trent.

She said: “I lost my pride a long time ago to keep the family going.

“I have got 10 O-Levels and four A-Levels, but I can’t get a job. I applied for four jobs recently and didn’t even get an interview for any of them.

“My husband died in 2017 and I had to pull myself together for the kids. When he was diagnosed with cancer he was given two years, but he lasted 10. But what this has done is given me strength to know that I’m not alone.”

When Jennifer and Haydn moved to Stoke-on-Trent they bought a derelict property in Meir at auction and planned to renovate it themselves. But that was not possible after Haydn’s health deteriorated and the property was so bad that some rooms were uninhabitable.

It meant the couple and their three children – who are now aged 11, 15 and 20 – all had to sleep in the same room – until BBC’s DIY SOS came along to fix the house.

The family received a lump sum following Haydn’s death and Jennifer used it to buy a car. But the family has continued to be stuck in the poverty trap.

John Walsh from the Charity ASHA, and Jennifer Spice
(Image: Stoke Sentinel)

The B-Arts volunteer added: “I went on UC in November and wasn’t paid any money until December. I went up to Christmas with nothing and had to take an advance, which I’m still paying back.

“Now I get £699-a-month for a family of four. My eldest daughter earns £50-a-week and pays me £20 and I make a little bit extra taxiing friends around, trying to get work.

“I’ve got thousands of pounds worth of debt and it is stinging me.

“UC has made things worse because just getting one amount a month makes it harder to budget. When it was weekly, I knew I only had a few days before I would get more money.

“I have not bought any new clothes in five years.

“It has turned me into a vegetarian, I haven’t eaten meat in two years because I can’t afford it.

“I worry about the kids. You have days when you are OK and then some really bad days.”

Other researchers working on the report have experienced similar hardship, or encountered people who have during the course of their research.

Researcher Mick Warrilow, aged 65, of Blurton, said: “We are the sixth largest economy in the world and it stuns me that in the 21st century people in full-time employment are having to use food banks.”

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says improvements have been made to UC.

A DWP spokesman said: “On Universal Credit no-one has to wait to be paid as up to 100 per cent advances are available from day one of a claim.

“We’ve made numerous improvements to Universal Credit – giving support to vulnerable people who need it most, while at the same time helping people get into work faster.

“The reasons for people using food banks are varied and many.”



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