Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin grilled Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions today over a Cleckheaton teacher and single mum who has been forced to use Batley Foodbank to feed her young son after being told she will have to wait over two months for her first Universal Credit payment.
Emma-Jayne Best, who has been teaching for 20 years, has been left wondering how she will pay her bills and put food on the table after her temporary teaching contract came to an unexpected end in mid-December.
She quickly applied for Universal Credit, but was told she would not receive any payment in January as her final wage from the school came in December.
After being told she would not be eligible for a hardship loan, Emma-Jayne fears that her house will be repossessed and has no idea how she will pay all her other bills.
Emma-Jayne contacted Tracy Brabin MP, and today the MP took Theresa May to task over the controversial Universal Credit system.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons: “This week I have been approached by a constituent Emma-Jayne Best, a single-mum and up until December was as a teacher.
“She’s been told that she’s going to have to wait over 6 weeks for her first payment and been denied a hardship loan – this means she is now living off £20 per week child-benefit and the charity of foodbanks.
“Can the Prime Minster tell us if this is how Universal Credit is supposed to work, and does she regret Emma-Jayne’s son now joining the nearly 9,000 children in poverty in Batley and Spen?”
Theresa May’s response was far from satisfactory – and will do little to help Emma-Jayne in her hour of need.
Ms Brabin said: “Emma-Jayne is a hard-working single mum who has never had to apply for Government help in the past and the way she has been treated is disgusting.
“Universal Credit exists to help people in times of need but this broken system is failing Emma-Jayne and many, many more.
“When we raise these issues with the Government, they give us the same old lines and tell us changes have been made – but how is Emma-Jayne supposed to get by when she won’t have a penny coming in for at least two months?
“This unacceptable wait will plunge people into poverty and will leave some without a roof over their head.
“Emma-Jayne’s case is yet another example of how the current system is broken and the Government must pause and fix it before any more damage is done.
“I will continue to fight for Emma-Jayne to get what she is entitled to and I’ll do the same for any of my constituents whose lives are turned upside down by this flawed system.”
After initially being told she would have to wait six weeks, Emma-Jayne was given the devastating news that she would have to wait even longer as her final wage from the school was paid on December 21.
Emma-Jayne, 44, said: “The wage that I received in December has been spent on my mortgage, bills, food, council tax, the running of a car etc.
“I don’t have any money left over at the end of the month as I am a single mum working full-time (normally) with no other source of income apart from the weekly child benefit of £20.70 a week.
“So thanks to the new Universal Credit I have to wait another month with no money whatsoever before I can receive anything. But in the meantime, as a sensible person who has been applying for jobs everyday, myself and my seven-year-old son have nothing to live on – never mind paying the mortgage and the bills.
“I have had to ring up the council to ask their advice and they arranged for me to receive food from the local food bank in Batley. Without this I don’t know how I could feed my son.
“I have visions and nightmares of my house being repossessed and items being sold from under us. I have paid National Insurance and tax all my working life. Surely Universal Credit is not the way forward as I have heard so many stories about the exceptionally high increase in families using food banks in this crisis.”
Anyone who is facing problems as a result of the Universal Credit roll-out, please contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org