Debbie Ballard and Ryan Gifford spent 15 nights sheltering in a car park after an automatic rent payment was missed
A young couple say a Universal Credit bungle left them homeless and sleeping rough – causing her to lose their unborn baby.
Debbie Ballard and Ryan Gifford, both 23, were kicked out of their home in December and spent 15 nights sheltering in a car park.
They say they became homeless after being switched onto Universal Credit when an automatic rent payment was missed and their landlord evicted them, reports Devon Live .
The pair are now in emergency accommodation but the damage has been done as they have now lost their unborn child.
Debbie said: “Losing my baby makes me feel like s**t. I feel useless and worthless. And now I have lost another baby.
“I was about six weeks pregnant when we were street homeless in December. I had a miscarriage because of all the stress.
“All we want is a chance for us to be a proper family.”
Before they were evicted, the pair were living in a flat in the town but were switched onto the new benefits system when they fell out, and Ryan took Debbie off his claim.
They got back together but due to the change in circumstance, they were automatically switched onto Universal Credit.
Originally, their rent was paid directly to the landlord but a payment was missed in the changeover and the pair were evicted due to being in arrears.
Debbie said: “We were living in a flat. It was full of mould and rats outside and we had made complaints to the landlords.
“Our Housing Benefit was being paid direct to the landlord but when it switched over to Universal Credit he said we were in arrears and served us with a notice and said he would take us to court.”
The couple say they did not receive letters about the changeover, and before they knew it their housing benefit was stopped and it was too late.
Debbie said: “It’s too late now. We should have been told that before we were made homeless.
“They said it was because of a change in circumstances. We were without money for eight weeks. We were literally begging and borrowing from everybody we knew.
“At the beginning of December, we had 15 days sleeping on the streets because of Universal Credit. We were sleeping in a car park on the harbour. It was really horrible.
“It was so cold at night. If you go down to the bottom car park near the Harvester pub it’s warm in there.
“But there’s an alarm that goes off every 10 minutes for 20 seconds.
“You can’t sleep but it’s warmer.
“When we were on the streets you felt like you were taking one step forward and four steps back.
“Now we are in emergency accommodation and we are expected to live on £161 a month.
“I am trying my hardest but I hit barriers everywhere I go.
“We have to pay £20 a time to wash and dry our clothes because there’s no washing facilities in temporary accommodation. Everything is really expensive. It’s really hard.”
Ryan said: “We lost our home when we were switched over to Universal Credit. Now we are expected to live on a joint sum of £161 a month.”
“I want Universal Credit to stop. I think that now Universal Credit is coming in properly it’s going to get a lot worse. It’s going to be a nightmare.
“Everybody who has a drink or drug habit is going to be shoplifting to feed their habits.”
Debbie and Ryan received support from local homelessness charity People Assisting Torbay’s Homeless, where they now volunteer
PATH chairman Kath Friedrich said: “There is nothing wrong with the theory of Universal Credit. On paper it’s fine.
“But what’s causing all these problems is that all these pre-payment, backdated loans are handed out like sweeties to people who do not have budgeting skills while they are waiting for their Universal Credits.
“Then when they finally get their money all the loans are deducted. We’ve got lots of people coming in here who are only getting £10 a week to live on.
“Sometimes they are paying back old loans they didn’t even know they had.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are working with Mr Gifford to support him with his Universal Credit claim.
“If requested we can arrange for rent to be paid directly to the landlord.”