Universal Credit 7-week delay left me with just £1.80 a day to feed my family

MUM Becky Bouzguanda feeds her family-of-four pasta and frozen vegetables every day after a seven-week wait for Universal Credit means she has just £12.50 a week – or £1.80 a day – to buy food.

The 32-year-old mum-of-two from Croydon, South London, used to earn £80-a-week working eight hours as a waitress, but has been unable to return after having her second child because she can’t afford to pay for childcare upfront.

Becky Bouzguanda, 32, is left with £1.80 a day to feed her family

Under Universal Credit rules parents now pay for childcare upfront, then reclaim the cost from the Government.

Becky says this has effectively banned her from going back to work, as she’ll never be able to scrape together the £1,000 she’ll need to pay nursery fees for Mahdi, four, and Alfie, 18 months.

Her husband Mohammed has a job as a kitchen assistant at a restaurant, but is on a zero hours contract and is currently only being offered two shifts a week.

The family are among the millions of parents who are entitled to claim back 85 per cent of childcare costs from the Government, but Becky says she can’t afford the upfront bill to get them back into work, as highlighted by The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.

The mum-of-two has been to food banks three times she was rolled on to the scheme.

She said: “I would rather eat dry pasta than go to a food bank but sometimes we are left with absolutely no choice.”

“I didn’t think I would have to wait seven weeks for my first universal credit payment considering I have a child and was pregnant with my second.

“I had no savings as my waitress job before and it paid enough for me to have a little bit of pocket money which I would spend on clothes for the kids or maybe some extra meat on the food shop.

“I had to rely on my mum a lot but she could only give me about £15 a week, if it wasn’t for her I don’t know what I would have done.

“I managed to spend as little as possible by buying lots of pasta, rice, bread and freezer food.”

The family get £659 a month in benefits, but Becky is left with just £12.50 for her weekly grocery shop after she has paid her rent and bills.

Becky, who stretches her budget by shopping in Asda and Lidl, blames Universal Credit for keeping them trapped in poverty.

She said: “It’s infuriating that I can’t go back to work due to childcare being so expensive as I’d love to have a job to make our lives easier.”

The mum-of-two, with her son Alfie, shops at Asda and Lidl to make her money stretch

Beck with her husband Mohammed, and sons Alfie and Mahdi

“I can’t go back to work until my baby is two because universal credit expect you to pay two months of child care fees upfront and then it will be reimbursed.

“It is impossible for me to scrape together that as it would be well over £1,000.”

It means that Becky and her family have been forced to drastically change and simplify their diet.

She adds: “It’s frustrating walking around the supermarket and seeing food items that I haven’t eaten for years, sometimes I pick up lamb and think this will be a nice treat on Sunday.

“But I always end up putting it back, because it isn’t worth going hungry for the six other days for the sake of one dinner.

“We are lucky to eat meat twice a week, I usually just buy one pack of chicken which has two breasts in and then dice it so there is enough for all of us.

After the bills are paid, the family are left with £12.50 to last the week to buy food

Everyday, the family eat frozen vegetables and pasta because it’s all they can afford

“Most of the time, we eat pasta which does get pretty boring, but it is all we can afford.

“As a treat for the kids I buy a 30p cake mix that just needs one egg and some milk adding to it.

“Typically we have porridge for breakfast as it lasts the longest and for lunch baked beans and jacket potato and pasta for dinner.

“I manage to buy everything we need by avoiding branded products and by keeping my eyes open in the reduced section.”

Becky receives vouchers to spend on fresh fruit and veg for her kids

She shops mostly own-brand goods and keeps an eye out on the reduced section

Becky, who’s been on Universal Credit for two years, was forced to beg cash from family during a seven-week wait for her first payment which meant she had no money to pay for bills.

She even pawned her Huawei 7 mobile phone worth £50 for £40 to pay the bills, but ended up paying double to get it back.

Her husband Mohammed is desperately trying to get more work. He got the job as a Christmas temp and they have kept him on, so he’s hoping that they will increase his contract to a full-time role soon.

In the meantime the family are trying to cut back on spending by shopping charity shops and say visiting Primark is a treat.

Becky adds: “I can’t even afford to go into high street shops, I mainly get my clothes from a local charity shop where items are £2 for adults and 50p for children.

“Sometimes I go to Primark but that is very rare and would be a treat.”

“Universal credit has caused me a never ending cycle of debt, I am always having to borrow money off friends or family.

“I feel awful that I can’t stock up on nibbles or even meat, but I am slowly getting used to it, I have to.”

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