Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Single parent Maria* was facing demands for Universal Credit repayments that she couldn’t afford, until Money A+E’s Advice team took on her case.
Maria had been living independently, balancing a busy life as a young mum with both work and studying to fulfil her dream of becoming a midwife.
But the birth of her second child coincided with a split from her partner, and then a six-month wait to receive basic maternity allowance from her employer. Unable to work as before, she made an application for Universal Credit.
A lack of information
This was a difficult period for Maria because, as she puts it, ‘I’m very independent. I like to work, to live my own life.’
What was more, she soon realised that her Universal Credit payments were not enough to cover her living costs.
‘In my case, I didn’t know anything about benefits, because I didn’t need [them] before,’ she explains. ‘I thought, ‘It’s nothing but it’s something.’’
She used her student loan payments to top up her budget, and for a while managed to remain afloat. It was when she received all her backdated maternity pay at once that things started to tip over into the deep end.
A phone call came from the Job Centre informing her that she had to return £2,000 of her Universal Credit payments. It was due to her employer’s confirmation that she had been entitled to maternity pay during the period.
Maria had no idea how she could pay the debt, or where to turn for help.
How Montse could help
Then a chance conversation in her mother’s hair salon supplied Maria with contact details for Montse, an Advisor at Money A+E.
Montse took on Maria’s case and soon identified that she had not been receiving any amounts to cover her housing costs, nor support with her first child – both of which she was entitled to.
After gathering the necessary evidence together, Monste and Maria secured payment of these previously unpaid benefits – around £8,000 in total. The £2,000 debt was netted off against this, and Maria could feel ‘like everything is fine’ again.
A relationship that outlives the crisis
Not wanting to lose her links to Money A+E, Maria has begun supporting Montse as a volunteer. She recommends the organisation to friends and family, and to anyone who might be facing similar challenges to her own.
‘There’s many people that really need the help,’ she says, ‘Many people don’t have the information [about] where they can get benefits, and why.’
For Maria, financial education is key, and she credits her mother with providing this for her. It was, she says, what enabled her to remain disciplined with money and stay strong throughout the challenges.
She is still working to prepare herself for a midwifery course, studying at night or early in the morning while her children are asleep. She says that her attitude has always been positive.
‘If you have debts, look for the information [about support] and try to do everything correct,’ she advises. ‘Maybe it’s lonely, but everything can be resolved.’
*Name has been changed
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