Universal Credit, Universal Rip Off

For a change, I’m spending a weekend in Hastings and catching up on house stuff.  It was good last week revisiting Hornsey Road and it sparked a good reaction within the Facebook Tolly Park and George Orwell School group.  I have another urban walk planned between Hornsey Road to Highgate Cemetary for a few months time.  One thing that did strike me is the number of international visitors getting off at Holloway Road tube to visit the Arsenal stadium.  I’m not calling it anything else!

We were expecting a student from Saudi Arabia for three months to arrive today but his mother wanted to come too and we weren’t prepared to have them together, I still don’t know if a taxi driver will knock on our door at 8 tonight with a 17 year old so just as well I’m planning a night in.

A headline in this weeks Guardian stated ”25 million books are missing from UK libraries – but who’s counting?”  I used to visit the library in Manor Gardens quite a bit when I lived in the Andover Estate.  It also had a record library.  It’s time to confess.  If a librarian somewhere is looking for a copy of Look Sharp by Joe Jackson it’s still being borrowed by me.

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This week I had my first experience of Universal Credit.  This is the benefit that pays Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance or Job Seekers Allowance in one payment.  It is being piloted in Hastings and a few other areas.  Already I have it on good authority that there are people sleeping rough in Hastings because landlords are not prepared to wait 6-8 weeks for their first rent payments to be made.  You have to make applications online.  Which is fine but if you have a learning difficulty quite a challenge.  You then have to go through ID verification process that breaks down because most of the people I’m assisting don’t have a credit history and no record of paying utility bills.  You can then ring a number for assistance.  But you have to wait up to half an hour to get through.  At 45p a minute.  That could be £13 for a phone call about a benefit that pays you as little as £57 per week.  And my local authority issued mobile is blocked from making calls to premium rate numbers.  Universal Credit?  More like Universal Rip Off.

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