A mother of a disabled son who was put on Universal Credit was so short of money she could not afford toilet paper and resorted to taking napkins from McDonald’s.
The story was revealed during a House of Lords debate about the new benefits system, under which claimants wait six weeks for their first payment as standard, placing some under severe financial pressure.
One peer highlighted the devastating pressures some people in his local area face as they wait for their money.
The Lord Bishop of Durham revealed the story of the mother in Hartlepool.
Claiming that Universal Credit was “failing the neediest in society”, he told peers: “What does the five or six week waiting period look like for a family or single parent with young children?
“One young mother visits St Aidan’s Church Kitchen in Hartlepool with her disabled son.
“She was moved onto Universal Credit and waited seven weeks for her money.
“She told one of my clergy that she took paper napkins from McDonald’s because she was unable to afford toilet paper.
“Her son’s condition means that he is forced to wear nappies and she was unable to afford them.”
Explaining that the money she was now receiving mostly went towards paying her rent arrears, he added: “Can any of us imagine the stress and indignity of the situation?”
The House of Commons also debated possible changes to the Universal Credit roll-out today.
A number of politicians lashed out at the scheme, with former welfare minister Frank Field describing it as a “national scandal” condemning people to the brink of destitution.
Mr Field, Labour chairman of the work and pensions select committee, told ministers the benefit had become a “personal nightmare” for constituents and had diverged from what its architect, former work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith, had envisaged.
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He called on Government to urgently reduce the initial six-week wait for money to four weeks.
He said: “The six-week wait for payment is the main force pushing people to no food, risking everything and on the brink of destitution.
“The great architect of this reform (Mr Duncan Smith)… couldn’t ever, ever, ever have envisaged that this is where a reform of noble intent should actually end, in this personal nightmare for our constituents.”
MPs backed the calls for the Government to reduce the standard waiting time for Universal Credit from six weeks to a month.
Media reports this week suggested the move was being considered by ministers and an announcement would be made in the coming days.
Welfare minister Damian Hinds told MPs that Universal Credit was the biggest modernisation of the benefits system in a generation and he was determined to get its rollout right.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Field said: “The whole House has unanimously asked the Government to move, and that’s what I want the Secretary of State to address on Monday.”