People with universal credit go days without eating in the “Benefit Street” area
People living with universal credit have lifted the veil on the days without eating and are struggling to get by in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the country.
One in six adults in Manningham, Bradford, depend on Social Security payments and face an increasingly difficult life.
Mohammed Ali, 63, who can barely pay his bills, says he is often unable to put food on the table.
He told Yorkshire Live: “I haven’t eaten for two days.
“All I have is about eight teabags and a little sugar. I don’t even have milk. Everything is empty.
“To be honest with you, it’s very difficult.
Kristian Johnson / Reach plc)
For Mohammed Ali, every day is a struggle to make ends meet.
The 63-year-old can barely pay his bills or buy new clothes – and he often finds he can’t put food on the table.
“In the last two days, I ran out of everything,” he says.
“I drank black tea. I don’t even like it, but I have to.
As difficult as Mohammed’s situation is, he is not the only resident of Manningham, Bradford, living on the bread line.
He is one of more than 2,000 inner-city suburbs who rely on Universal Credit. This means that one in six adults aged 16 and over in Manningham depends on Social Security payment – more than anywhere else in Yorkshire.
Mohammed receives £ 55.80 per week, but he still depends on nearby family members for food.
“I don’t have a stove,” he admits.
Kristian Johnson / Reach plc)
“It would be between £ 300-400 and then people will want to charge money to install it. £ 50, £ 60, £ 70.
“Sometimes I go without food. Maybe two or three days at a time.
“My family is gone, but today I am going to eat because they are back. They called me earlier and told me that when they got back they would cook me dinner.
Once he pays his gas and electric bills, along with all the other expenses, his insanely slim salary just doesn’t go far enough.
“It’s not enough money for me,” he says.
“Without my family, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live here.
Just hours before he sat down to talk to YorkshireLive in his one-bedroom bungalow on Rose Street, Mohammed received a heartbreaking phone call.
“My nephew called me at 5.30am this morning to tell me my sister is in Nottingham hospital,” he says.
“She might not survive any longer.”
For many of us, receiving such traumatic news would cause us to immediately jump in the car to visit our loved ones.
But it is not that easy for Mohammed.
“I hope she doesn’t die in the next four or five days,” he explains. “I need some money to take the bus to Nottingham.
“To be honest with you, today I was thinking of selling my phone to make money. £ 15 or £ 20 round trip. It is all I have.
“I have to go pay homage to my sister. If so, I will have to do it. I have to go pay my respects to my sister before they bury her.
A few doors down from Mohammed is Nusrat Naheed, who also relies on Universal Credit.
The 57-year-old has serious vision problems and has to go to the hospital or have a doctor’s surgery on a regular basis, but it all comes at an additional cost.
“I need taxis to get to my appointments when I go to the hospital or to my doctor,” she says.
“In this weather, I can handle [walking], but not in winter.
However, Nusrat’s main concern is paying his phone bill. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she has become more dependent on phone dates than ever.
She says, “I’m trying to manage my money, but I’m having trouble paying my cell phone bill. Everywhere, telephone, telephone, telephone.
“I need to recharge every week but it’s very, very expensive for me.
“Then there’s the electric bill, the gas bill, the Yorkshire water bill and the council bill. Then I need food, drink, clothes. There are a lot of expenses.
“I fight a lot because he [Universal Credit] is not enough money.
Like Mohammed, she admits that her financial situation means she doesn’t always eat full meals.
“I have to eat very carefully. Sometimes I have to have very small meals.
Despite his precarious situation, Nusrat praises a number of local services and charities that help him with his daily tasks.
Her poor eyesight means that she often cannot read letters sent in the mail, but staff at the local community center help her do this.
She also checks the name of the Millan Center, a community charity that provides dedicated support to the women and girls of Manningham.
One of its main goals is to help women find local jobs in the surrounding areas.
It runs workshops to give women the skills they need to earn money and maintains close links with local Jobcentres, which advertise courses run by the Millan Center.
“We are trying to get people to find jobs,” says center administrator Aaisha Esmail.
“People will come here to learn how to sew, and then they can go and build that into their own small home business. “
Aaisha believes that many people in Manningham have the skills they need to build a career, but sometimes they need a little bit of guidance or encouragement.
“A lot of the women here are so talented that they just don’t have self-confidence,” she says.
“We see so many people from different countries and they have degrees and so many skills, but when they come here it’s obviously a whole new country.
“There is sometimes a language barrier and it’s a question of self-confidence.
“For example, we saw a lady who came here and soon after she taught other women because she felt comfortable.
“The teacher was even listening to him, which is amazing.”
The situation in Manningham is grim for many, however. 16.6% of all adults aged 16 and over had universal credit in July, well above the Bradford average of 8.9% and more than three times the UK average of 5.5%.
The Ministry of Work and Pensions recognizes that this is an area that faces more challenges than most in terms of boosting employment.
Angela McVay, principal employer and head of partnerships at the Bradford Jobcentre, says: “Throughout Covid our universal credit claims have increased, but over the last couple of months – certainly in the Bradford area – it’s starting to show a little better picture.
“A lot of it has to do with all the support Jobcentre and DWP put in place to help people get back to work. “
One of the programs specifically tailored to the city’s youth is the Kickstart program. It is designed to help people aged 16-24 return to work and over 700 job opportunities have opened up in Bradford with support from the Bradford Council.
But for Mohammed and N usrat, other programs are more suitable.
“We have set up support for over 50 clients and we have a new program called Restart which is for people who have been unemployed for a little longer,” says Angela.
“We have a full catalog of organizations we work with.
“Whatever obstacle you are, whatever your challenges, whatever your problems, we have work coaches who can help you.
“We will be linking with our partner organizations in the Bradford area to provide this support. “
But for millions of people across the UK on Universal Credit, some fear things are about to get worse.
A temporary increase of £ 20 per week was introduced during the pandemic, but it is expected to be removed from the end of September. This means that nearly two million people will start to see their universal credit decline from next month.
For Mohammed and so many like him, it would be a blow after months of struggling for food.
“The last year has been tough for me, but I’ve pretty much done it,” he says.
“I thank God every day for being healthy and always here.”