Exactly one month ago on Friday March 20, 24-year-old Emily pulled her last pint in a Dundee city centre pub and is now one of the 1.4 million new Universal Credit applicants.
The Monday after her last shift, she went to the Wellgate Jobcentre to register as unemployed but the door was locked.
A sign said: “We are working hard to process your claim and therefore we are limiting customers attending the Jobcentre to adhere to social distancing.
Emily said: “At that point I had not yet made a claim. That’s why I was there – to find out how.”
The sign also contained a website address and a phone number so she decided to phone the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but could not get through.
She called back on the Tuesday at 8am and, after waiting for six hours, she finally spoke to someone who said they could not process Universal Credit applications over the phone and she would need to apply online.
She did so and then waited seven days until she got a call to schedule an appointment for her first meeting four weeks away.
On Friday of that week, exactly seven days after her last shift, Emily received her wages for March and has her telephone appointment next Monday.
However, as a single young woman living alone, money is getting tight having not received a full month’s salary in March.
She applied for a crisis grant but was told because she had applied for Universal Credit she is not entitled to one.
Emily told me: “I did not even tell them I had applied for Universal Credit. Their system told them even before I could.”
Next Monday, assuming her application is processed, Emily will be told she must wait five more weeks until her first Universal Credit payment unless she takes a benefit advance, which is a loan she must pay back.
So, having first managed to contact the DWP and submitted an application on March 23, the earliest point at which she will receive a payment will be June 1.
Yet, she says, she has to pay rent three times, electricity 10 times and feed herself for exactly 70 days before then.
Thérèse Coffey, the UK Cabinet Secretary for Work and Pensions, announced last Tuesday that 1.4 million new claims had been made for Universal Credit since March 16.
Only three days before Ms Coffey’s announcement, The Food Foundation reported that 1.5 million people had gone without food for a whole day during the same period of time.
Emily said: “If it was not for my mum giving me some cash, I would be numbered among the 1.5 million as well.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that unemployment will reach 10% with an estimated annual cost of £9.6 billion, which is a fraction of the value Emily and her 1.4 million co-workers contribute to our economy and our lives.