Isha is a former Young Women’s Trust peer researcher. She recently attended a meeting of young women with Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Jonathan Ashworth, to share her experience of the cost of living crisis as part of our Costing Our Futures campaign.
I wanted to discuss being on Universal Credit during a cost-of-living crisis, having been trapped in long-term unemployment, poverty and an unfair benefits system since my mid teens, having health problems and coming from a very low-income household.
Being listened to is a start towards creating change.Isha
Barriers have made study and work challenging: today I am neither a graduate nor in employment and I feel that what should be my defining years are wasting away. This isn’t a good quality of life, and having insufficient money is the main factor stopping me from progressing.
I’ve been on Universal Credit over a year and whilst it’s a ‘benefit’, an income, it’s never been enough to sustain me each month whether in or out of work. I have repeatedly disclosed difficulties and complained but I’m currently in unmanageable debt.
Access to benefits for people with health conditions
I’ve sent off multiple Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) and Personal Independence Payment forms, only to experience delays and poor to no responses! Even DWP programmes for people with health issues aren’t individually tailored, and don’t provide the financial support needed even though you keep all your commitments as a claimant and participant.
Skipping grocery shops, walking long distances, avoiding putting the heating on are sacrifices I shouldn’t have to make when I’m so unwell. They’re not even helping me cope financially, and there’s never even opportunity to save money.
No matter how self-motivated and hard working I am, it’s practically impossible to achieve any of my goals. I am trapped living alone in hardship on such a low income.
Ultimately, the decision makers with power to make urgent changes need to step up. The day in Westminster was a contrast from my current reality, a temporary escape. I am grateful to have been listened to, because that’s a start towards creating change.
The benefits increase in April 2023
Support for access to work if you have a health condition
PIP eligibility checker – are you entitled to Personal Independent Payment?
Get help with benefits if you have accessibility needs