Inside ‘Benefits Street’ where residents struggle to pay for food and medication

Teresa Skinner, 43, faces a constant battle to put food and life-saving medication on the table – similar stories abound in a number of streets in the city of Hull, Yorkshire

Teresa Skinner, 43, and her daughter face an almost constant battle with asthma

Residents on a “Benefits Street” have given a heartbreaking account of how difficult it is just to put food and life-saving medication on the table.

Teresa Skinner, 43, and her daughter face an almost constant battle with asthma, but she worries that with the cost of living rising, she won’t be able to scrape together the money needed to pay the ever-rising prescription charge.

“The chemists have told me it will cost £103 for 12 months of prescriptions within a month or so,” Teresa told HullLive.

“And the cost of living is going up at the moment.

“I don’t know how we are going to afford it.”

Teresa lives on Walliker Street in Hull, which along with Ruskin Street, Perry Street, Granville Street, Sandringham Street, St George’s Road and Plane Street -make up the neighbourhood with the most number of people on Universal Credit in the area.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the benefit was increased by £20 a week in April 2020 to help better support the unemployed and those on low wages.

This translates to just over £1,000 extra in a year and is a vital source of extra income for those who claim it.

But the uplift in Universal Credit is set to end on October 5, leaving some wondering how they will make up the difference.

“It will screw most over and will make us more poorer,” Teresa said.

“I am worried about paying for food and bills when the uplift ends and then we will have to find room to pay for our asthma prescriptions.”

But Teresa is not the only one concerned for what the future holds.

An abandoned house in Granville Street which has several such houses

Ruskin Street is also looking run down

Christian, 41, lives in nearby Perry Street and has claimed Universal Credit for two years. He says it has “really helped” him and his wife, who have a small child.

His wife works full-time at a fish factory, while he was partly unemployed in order to be able to look after their child.

Karl McDonald, 31, lives in Granville Street and has been on benefits for 10 years.

“The uplift was really important,” he said.

“I’m struggling to pay food and bills as it is.

“I would like the uplift to continue, but the whole system needs changing. It’s not enough to live on.”

Jimmy, 30, lives with his three dogs in Ruskin Street.

He was employed until the start of summer with demolition work, before a host of health issues forced him to take sick pay.

Inside 'Benefits Street' where residents struggle to pay for food and medication
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These health issues included the digestive illness Diverticulitis, which required to have a “high fibre, high calories, special diet”.

“I’m finding it tough to live off the sick pay, particularly with the three dogs to feed regularly,” Jimmy said.

He told Hull Live that he accepts the Universal Credit uplift has to end, but he was critical of the decrease happening at once as “it puts an extra meal on the table” for many people.

“It will cripple a lot of people,” Jimmy said.

“They should do it gradually,” he said, before also criticising plans to take in up to 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the next five years.

Down on St Georges Road, close to the level crossing, Daina, 28, was visiting her partner’s mother, Iluta, 48, who lives with a younger child.

Both had been on Universal Credit for around 12 months.

Daina, who lives on the Boulevard, said: “Universal Credit is a lifeline and is really helping us, especially as we have two children under the age of two.”

But, she also accepts the uplift will end shortly and while it will mean less money, she says her family can still survive.

Overall in Hull, there are over 35,000 people on Universal Credit, with the numbers climbing since lockdown restrictions eased.

A few backbench Conservative MPs have called for the uplift to continue and the Labour Party hope to force a vote on the issue in parliament.

Even so, the Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa Coffey has been clear in recent days that it will still end on October 5.

Universal Credit has been phased in since 2013 to effectively combine six separate benefits, including child tax credit, housing benefit and income support, into a single monthly payment.

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