Gemma lost her retail job at the start of the pandemic. In this blog, she explains what it is like to live on Universal Credit, and why the £20 benefit uplift is vital to helping her life and her future.
I have been receiving Universal Credit for the past 11 months after losing my job because of the pandemic. I had worked in retail for 5 years and, just before the pandemic, I was promoted to management. When Covid hit, my contract was changed and I was offered a reduced role of a weekend worker on a 4 hour contract. Unfortunately I could not accept that role and I was made redundant.
What it is like to be on Universal Credit
Being on Universal Credit is like a full-time course, you have to regularly update your journal with work searches, job applications (of which I have made over 800 so far) and conversations with your work coach. It is a stressful experience and I feel a great deal of pressure having to make sure I am active on my journal and always looking and applying for roles.
On top of this, I face messages from my work coach reminding me that I will be fined if I do not keep up with my to-do list and constantly apply for jobs. I do everything I can to keep up with what they require but it takes a real toll on me. As soon as I see that I have a message from them, the anxiety creeps in. I understand that they are trying to help but it can feel more like being behind at school and repetitively picked on by a teacher.
What the £20 uplift has meant to me
I have to be extremely careful with my finances now that I am unemployed and on Universal Credit. I hate having money worries and having to make difficult decisions about what I spend my money on, even with very small amounts. This is why the uplift is so important. For young women like me on Universal Credit, the £20 uplift offers a better chance of gaining employment again and getting out of this stressful situation as soon as possible.
I am a Journalism graduate, I have a blog and I am trying to gain employment in the media. The £20 uplift gives me invaluable time to improve my online portfolio which improves my employability in gaining a role in my dream sector. If this vital uplift is ended, I will not be able to keep my online presence active, making my job search much harder and forcing me to rely on Universal Credit for longer.
I am aware that personally, I am in a fortunate position. Other young women rely on the uplift for food, clothes, heating, water and bills. It does not bear thinking about that not only are these young women struggling with the mental and financial toll of being unemployed, but they could be going without these essentials if the uplift is scrapped.
In the face of an uncertain future, the £20 uplift is vital for securing our lives and futures. We need it to survive and thrive.