Universal Credit: The York publicans who had to live in a tent by the River Ouse

Tony Carson and Sue Rimington.
Tony Carson and Sue Rimington.

For Tony Carson and his fiancée Sue Rimington, they were enjoying a comfortable life while living and working at a pub.

But after they left that business, their next move fell through and they found themselves out of work and homeless, and went on to Universal Credit.

They initially moved into a council-run hostel in York, but struggled to keep up with the rent there, partly because of UC being paid monthly.

The couple then had to leave the hostel in August as they had been sleeping there on alternate nights.

Dogs were also banned from the facility, and when Tony and Sue’s dog-sitting arrangement fell through, they and their pet Buster moved into a tent beside the River Ouse for several weeks.

They are now housed again, but speaking at the time of their homelessness, Mr Carson said: “Universal Credit does not work, and it’s the fault of the system.

“It doesn’t help you get back on your feet, it traps you.

“The staff at the York Jobcentre have been helpful but they have to fulfil their duties and the system does not work.

“We receive Universal Credit of £465 a month. The DWP also pay towards housing costs, but their assessment for two people in a single property in York is £430 a month and you cannot get anywhere in York for that.

“The rent in the hostel is £128 a week plus £35 amenity charges.

“So we get £465 a month of Universal Credit and from that we have to pay £98 a month to top-up our rent at the homeless hostel and £160 a month in amenity charges, so we’ve only a few pounds a day left for everything else.

“In the middle of August, we had £23 to last us 11 days until our next Universal Credit payment and we had to buy washing powder and gas for the camp stove.”

Mr Carson added: “I managed to get some work one month, so they took 63p in the pound out of the Universal Credit and our payment that month was £253 – but then they assumed we were getting that income again the next month, when we weren’t, so we were short until they resolved it.

“They also expect the system to operate entirely online but if you are homeless you can’t charge your phone up whenever you want, you often can’t afford to call someone, and if they send a message to you and you don’t receive it, then straight away you’re under threat of being sanctioned.

“The idea of Universal Credit as a one-size-fits-all system is a nonsense.

“It needs more flexibility built into it. It needs to allow for people’s circumstances.”