A mum has claimed she has been forced to choose between feeding herself or her family because of controversial changes to the benefits system.
Hayley Mill, 33, has spoken out about the problems she has faced since being forced to move onto Universal Credit last year – a move which she says has left her living on less than £50 fortnight.
The mum-of-four explained: “Before these changes I was getting £1,400 a month which meant I was able to manage on that.
“But I was forced on to Universal Credit, and along with this benefit cap it means that I have ended up living on just £44 a fortnight.
“That’s not even enough to cover my electricity bill let alone all the other things I need to pay for.”
Hayley’s problems have been made even worse by the fact she is suffering from health problems make it difficult to find and keep long-term employment.
She said: “I suffer from back pain and I tried to work last year but that only lasted about four months.
“I have to care for my son who has ADHD as well. I want to work but it’s difficult.
“I feel like I am grovelling for help.
Speaking about how the changes in the benefit system have impacted her life, the Whitfield resident admits there has been times where she feels she has been forced to choose between feeding herself or her family.
Hayley added: “My kids wake up feeling cold and I have had to go to go food banks to feed them.
“And when the kids are not at school, they are in the house 24/7 because I can’t send them to clubs or anything like that.”
The experience has left Hayley feeling on the brink, and she believes her mental health has suffered as a result of the money worries she is experiencing.
She added: “The changes are one thing but I feel we have been left with no advice or places to go for more information about this.
“My dad has helped us out over Christmas but I don’t see it getting any better in 2020.
“This situation is affecting my mental health and quite a few times I have thought about checking myself into Carseview, because I am so exhausted with it all.”
The controversial changes to the benefit system first came into force in 2013 when Universal Credit was introduced to replace a number of existing benefits, which included child tax credit and income support.
Now the young mum is speaking out about her own experience of living on the benefits system to raise awareness of the plight others may be facing.
Hayley added: “People need to know that this going on in the 21st Century.
“Before going on Universal Credit I was fine and I’d be the one helping others. But now that is impossible and I am the one needing help.
“I feel like they have pushed through with these changes without thinking of the impact it could cause and struggling families are being punished.
“The people who are on this are suffering in silence.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions, which is responsible for overseeing Universal Credit, said: “We spend over £95 billion a year on working age benefits and Universal Credit supports more than 2.7 million people across the UK.
“It gives people financial help if they’re unemployed, low-paid or unable to work.
“The benefit cap ensures fairness by asking families receiving benefits to face the same financial choices as families supporting themselves solely through work.”