Christmas can be a stressful time for most people – but those living on Universal Credit are facing extra financial strain at this time of year, it has been claimed.
Just over a year on from the controversial roll-out of the benefits system, a campaign group in Dundee has called for it to be scrapped.
Dundee Against Austerity, along with the Unite community branch, are launching a campaign next year to raise awareness of the effects of Universal Credit in the city.
Andrew Duncan, Unite community branch officer for Tayside, said: “We’re calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped.
“It is not being rolled out in a fair or fashionable manner. And every aspect of it has tipped into social life.
“We have heard about people coming out from signing on and asking where the nearest foodbank is because their benefits have been sanctioned.
“This disaster has to be stopped.”
The move comes after local charity, Eagles Wings Trust, claimed more people in Dundee had been plunged into poverty in the past year.
Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) reported an 18% increase in the number of people seeking assistance with rent arrears between October last year and October this year.
The city’s foodbank has also reported a rise in use in recent months.
Dundee Foodbank’s stock controller, Michael Calder, said: “We have had a lot of clients coming to us because of benefit delays.
“We’ve certainly seen people come since being switched over from the old benefit system onto Universal Credit.”
Heather Greenwood has felt the strains of Universal Credit as she looks to provide a special Christmas for her son Rory, 4.
The 21-year-old, pictured, from Douglas, ran into difficulties after moving to Dundee from Carnoustie.
Heather said: “My money under Universal Credit stopped from the week of October 19 when I moved to Dundee.
“Luckily I was able to borrow from my mum and I became used to borrowing but it is a stressful situation.
“I now live in a privately rented flat and have a baby due in February but have been put into debt under Universal Credit.
“It hasn’t got any easier – I have only had one payment since moving because they pay one month in advance.
“It really is draining – you want to give up.
“My Universal Credit payments leave with me with £200 for the whole month.
“And with payments being made monthly instead of fortnightly, it makes the situation worse.”
Heather added: “I went for a job interview and hid my bump because I was stressed out about the money.
“I got the job in the end but could not take it because I could not physically work while being pregnant.”
Despite struggling to stay afloat, Heather says she isn’t letting her bank balance get in the way of Rory having a good Christmas.
But she has admitted being left in tears over the lack of cash in her bank account.
Heather said: “I am sure my son will have a brilliant Christmas – but it is only because I have put myself into debt to buy his presents.
“It has been awful –stressful to the point I have ended up crying over it.”
The UK Government was asked for comment, but hadn’t responded at the time of going to press.