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Nurse was forced to sell her children’s toys to buy food after Universal Credit blunder left her penniless.
Therese Nakitende had to sell off clothes, toys and anything of value to feed her family after being left with no income for weeks.
Applied for Universal Credit after being left with no pay for two months.
Told she wasn't entitled because of system error.
Forced to hold car boot sales to feed her family.
WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF ... UNIVERSAL CREDIT.
Nurse Therese Nakitende thought she’d have a better life when she moved out of London last year with her family. Having just given birth to her second child after having saved enough money for a deposit on a house, she was looking forward to a fresh start with her partner Derek, 26.
But just over a year later Therese found herself living on the breadline after a reduction in income and, despite applying for benefits to help with her living costs and childcare, she had nothing to live off at all for weeks.
The 28-year-old was eventually so desperate to feed her children she had to resort to selling their toys.
“It’s not something any mother should ever have to do really but I had no choice,” Therese told i. “I had no food in the cupboards and no money to pay bills so had to sell everything I could think of.”
Therese was on maternity leave from her job as a care nurse when she moved from London to Nottingham in January last year with Derek and their children Veronica, now five, and Gabriel, 16-months.
Derek had been renting a one-bedroom flat in London for £1,000 a month and, with no room for all of them, Therese was forced to live at her mother’s house. When Gabriel came along, the couple knew they needed a proper home of their own but couldn’t afford one in the capital.
“The properties were a lot cheaper in Nottingham and Derek had grown up there, so it seemed like the perfect place to buy our first home,” Therese explained. “Living at my mum’s, I managed to save £9,000 for a deposit as I didn’t have to pay her a lot of rent and she helped out with childcare when I went to work.”
But the sale of the house the couple had put an offer on in Nottingham fell through and they had to rent. Still, at £600 a month for a three-bedroom house, it was a lot cheaper than London.
“We were managing fine until August last year when my maternity pay ended,” explained Therese. “I worked for Bupa Healthcare at the time and tried to go back to work but I could only cover the hours when Derek was home otherwise there was nobody to look after the children.
“In the end I had to hand in my notice as the hours didn’t work around the kids.”
Therese started a new part-time job working from home and put Gabriel in nursery. But with the rent, bills, and nursery fees of £464, she found she was left with nothing at the end of each month.
“I earned £1,200 a month and Derek had been struggling to find work.” She said. “So it was left to me to pay most of the rent and bills, not to mention food. I just couldn’t afford it.”
As the months passed Therese had to keep dipping into her savings until there was nothing left. Desperate, she also took out a credit card to pay for essentials.
“I’d always been careful with money and hated being in debt,” she said. “The council tax alone was £200, then the nursery fees,and £160 for food a month – I was spending more than I was earning.”
Not realising she was entitled to help with nursery fees because they were a low income family, Therese applied for the benefit in February this year after a friend told her she would be eligible.
“I applied straight away and it turned out that I could claim back 85% of my nursery fees,” she recalled. “I was so pleased as the extra money meant almost £400 more in my bank account each month – enough to pay for food and clothes for the kids at least.”
But there was a problem.
After paying her nursery bills upfront, Therese went to upload her receipts onto the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website to claim the money back, and was told she wouldn’t be getting a penny because her receipts needed to be uploaded the same day the fees were paid to the nursery to be valid.
“To make matters worse, I’d just started a new job as a care in the community nurse but, because of a mix-up, I wouldn’t receive any pay for the first two months, so I had even less money than usual,” Therese said.
‘For two months I had no income at all and if it wasn’t for the support we have had from family, we wouldn’t have managed. Derek’s mum even gave us food from her cupboards so we wouldn’t starve’
With no other option she applied for Universal Credit but was refused because she was incorrectly down as receiving maternity allowance. Although Therese did eventually manage to take out an advanced payment, by then she’d had to sell off virtually everything the family owned of any value to survive.
“We would have ended up homeless otherwise,” she said. “For two months I had no income at all and if it wasn’t for the support we have had from family, we wouldn’t have managed. Derek’s mum even gave us food from her cupboards so we wouldn’t starve.”
With no other way to pay the rent, Therese began going to boot fares on Sundays and selling her children’s toys, prams, old clothes, her own jewellery and clothes, and anything else she could spare.
“I even sold the two prams we had – one for £118 and the other for £15. I had to use an old stroller of Veronica’s to push Gabriel around instead,” Therese admitted. “Derek sold a nice watch I’d bought him as a gift a few years back for £100 which helped pay the bills too.”
She also had to cut the family’s food shop by half, relying on pasta and potatoes to fill the children up and not buying any treats. Days out and trips to play areas for the youngsters also had to be put on hold.
Therese was eventually paid but with £5,000 credit card debt she says it will be a while before the family is back on its feet.
“I’m a strong person but the experience almost destroyed me,” she said. “I’ve always been able to provide for my children and this was the first time I had ever had money problems and it was awful. I was constantly anxious and worried about losing our home.”
Derek has since joined the Army as an engineer and Therese did finally receive a Universal Credit payment of £460 last month and one month’s reimbursement for her nursery fees, which have since increased to £603.50.
“I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone,” she said. “It broke my heart having to sell my children’s things and I felt guilty that Veronica had to see what we went through. It has made us realise how much we take for granted.
“I’ve worked all my life and paid taxes and only needed help for a couple of months until I got paid but it was like getting blood out of a stone.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We have apologised to Miss Nakitende for the error and have made a full back payment for the arrears due.
“We will be closely monitoring future payments to ensure her monthly amounts are correct.”
BY 2022 , THE WHOLE COUNTRY WILL BE INFECTED BY THIS FINANCIAL PLAGUE !