As the government faces calls to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, one ex-claimant describes her experience.
Saturday 26 October 2019 02:50, UK
One woman told Sky News she had been forced to sell sex for £5 after Universal Credit struggles.
Women are being driven to carry out “survival sex” work because of the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, MPs have warned.
An inquiry by the Commons’ work and pensions committee has found the wait for payments is why some claimants said they had turned to prostitution.
The committee has urged the government to remove the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment, which it described as a “fundamental design flaw”.
Here, a woman called Susie tells Sky News why her struggle with the Universal Credit system has left her selling sex for just £5.
Within the next week if my situation doesn’t change I am going to have to go back on the streets.
All I’m thinking about at the moment is that prostitution is the only way for me to get out of this really harmful situation I’m in.
I worked for years in Birmingham on the streets from 2012. It was very hard and harsh.
I was attacked three times and nearly every other woman that I knew was also attacked.
The police did little or nothing. The only time we saw them was when they were doing an action against clients.
I came to the UK because there is no money in Portugal, where I’m originally from.
My son is back home with my mum and nearly all the money I made went back to support them.
It’s a big responsibility. People can’t manage without the money we send.
I ended up supporting other family members too. When people have got nothing in the fridge to eat, you can’t turn them down.
In the last six months my life has gone down the drain.
I had got out of prostitution. I got help to apply for benefits and was just about managing. Then I was moved over to Universal Credit.
I got less money but I was still managing. Then I got a letter in the post saying that I was no longer entitled to Universal Credit because I was an EU citizen and I had to apply for settled status.
It’s been one crisis after another since. I tried to apply for settled status myself and it was so complicated I just got refused.
A woman from Citizens Advice Bureau helped me and she took a record of all my documents and sent them off to the authorities, but they said they never received them. I was back and forth with them for two weeks.
Meanwhile I have no money to live on. I went to Universal Credit but they said they couldn’t do anything until my application for status was agreed.
I have really been stuck. I ran out of money completely. My electricity and gas got cut off. My landlord started threatening to evict me because I can’t pay my rent.
It’s been three and a half months now. I wake up every morning wondering how I’m going to get through the day.
It’s a disaster.
Everywhere I go I’m begging for food or a little money just to stay alive.
No one can live like this. So of course I started selling sex again.
Where I live now, sometimes you only get a fiver. Girls are so desperate they’re taking it out on each other.
This is what we have been reduced to. Fighting our friends for a fiver. I am ashamed but what else can we do?
So I think my message is – don’t talk to me about the harms of prostitution when, under the circumstance, prostitution is the only way for me to get any dignity and to survive.