BEHIND on their rent, no savings and £3,000 in debt, Amanda Plowman and army veteran husband Bryan now face losing their home after a crippling five-week wait for their first Universal Credit payment.

When the couple moved onto the new benefit system in September their £561 a month benefits were immediately stopped, leaving them unable to pay their rent.

And to make matters even harder Amanda, 39 and Bryan, 49, are also £500 worse off under Universal Credit.

When people move on to Universal Credit the majority of their existing benefits are stopped, leaving them at least five weeks without a payment.

This waiting period without cash is crippling the thousands of people moving on to UC each week, as highlighted by our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

When Amanda and Bryan moved onto the new benefits system, their £900 a month benefits were stopped and they got behind on their bills and couldn't pay their rent.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 [email protected] to share your story.

Now they have a court date set for February 4 which will decide whether they will be evicted from their home in Peterborough.

Unfair taper rate means they are £500 a month worse off

Bryan currently works 37.5 hours as a school chef, while Amanda's debilitating anxiety attacks mean she is unable to leave the house alone and has been signed off work.

To make matters worse, the couple are £483 worse off under the new system, leaving them with £1,202 to cover all living costs.

This is because Brain’s wage is now hit by the unfair taper rate which sees 63p deducted for every £1 they earn above £198.

Out of Brian’s £978 salary, £616 is deducted from their UC payment, leaving him with just £362 of his earnings.

Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story. Email: [email protected] and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.

The Sun is calling for the Work Allowance to be raised and the taper rate reduced to 50p for every £1 earned to help at least four million families hold on to their hard earned cash.

The Peterborough couple, who’ve been living in their current home for a year now, claim they have nowhere else to go if they are evicted and will have to be put in temporary accommodation, at a cost of £300 a week to the city council.

"It's a disgusting situation to be in because you know it's going to happen but you're absolutely powerless to do anything about it," Amanda told The Sun.

"This is our home, we've made memories here and now it could be take away from us.

"We have no savings, no one to fall back on and we struggle to be able to afford the rent now that we’re in debt.

"If we're are relocated to a completely different area then Brian will have to give up his job but I thought the whole point of Universal Credit was to get people into work? It makes no sense.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:

Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.

Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.

Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.

Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.

Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

Out  of desperation Amanda has been applying for jobs even though she's medically not fit for employment.

She added: "Since this has all been going on, I've been having severe panic attacks which I can't keep under control.

“My husband said it will literally destroy me, but what choice do I have?"

One million Brits already receive Universal Credit and that figure will rise to nearly seven million by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023.

We fell behind on rent after five-week wait for Universal Credit

The Plowmans fell behind on rent due to the five-week wait new claimants face before receiving their first payment.

It's this cashless waiting time that causes millions of claimants to fall into debt, which is why The Sun wants it to be reduced to two weeks.

On their previous benefits, the couple lived off £1,685 a month – that was £781.60 of Bryan’s salary, £176 housing benefit, £385 working tax credit and £342.40 Personal Independence Payment which is for people with a long-term health conditions.

Their £176 Housing Benefit and £385 working tax credit, plus £54 of Brian’s wages covered the £615 a month rent.

But after applying for Universal Credit, their benefits stopped meaning the couple were forced to rely on Brian's full wage for the day to day bills, leaving them £225 short for September's rent.

Without help, they were unable to pay October's rent too while their income was assessed. By the time they received their first payment in November, they owed the landlord £840.

Their outgoings come to £700 a month not including rent, which means her UC payment and Brian’s wages leave her around £110 short.

Desperate for cash, they've now wracked up £3,000 in credit card debt.

Amanda said the couple have cut back on everything they can to pay their rent, adding: "My husband served in the army – he has never been out of work.

"I spoke to my housing officer and she said there are so many other people in the same position as us."

MP Shailesh Vara of Cambridgeshire North said: "We are working on this case with Mr and Mrs Plowman.

"As well as contacting the Department for Work and Pensions we are also in touch with Peterborough City Council with a view to resolving this matter."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Universal Credit is a force for good and it’s working for the vast majority of people.

"Universal Credit reduces gradually as people’s income increases, which means they’re always better off in work."

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