Mum-of-three living off £195 a month is forced to give up degree studies due to Universal Credit 'nightmare' in Milton Keynes
A young MK mum who dreamed of a career in criminology has told how she is living on the breadline with her three children.
Single parent Claire Buckner had to leave her job when lockdown began last year to focus on her three young children.
In October she enrolled to start a degree in psychology and criminology with the hope of it leading to a better paid career. She'd been studying towards the course for five years.
"I advised Universal Credit and sent all the relevant documents to them as requested," she said.
But early this year the DWP cancelled Claire's payments because they said her she was in receipt of £1,495 a month student finance - £17,500 a year.
In fact, she was receiving £11,000 a year, and says Universal Credit is meant to ignore the first £4,000 of that sum.
"I have been advising them for weeks that they have made an error on my claim. I either get ignored or asked to resend information" said Claire, who is now feeding her family with child benefit and her children's free school lunch money.
Due to the financial uncertainly, she quit her degree and found a job - but that doesn't start until April 12.
"I am now into my third month of no money. My mental health and self worth have been damaged severely by this. I've been proactive and found alternative employment, as I do not believe in living off the state and have been desperately trying to avoid falling in to the poverty trap. But it seems I have found myself there anyway.
"I am living off £195 a month currently. I have spoken to my local MP Iain Stewart. His case worker is helping. But I feel like I need more help. This is soul destroying. I am a single mum of three who has had to pick herself up from rock bottom.
"I've dragged myself back up and tried to better myself and yet I'm being penalised for this...The moment you try to get out of the poverty trap you get destroyed."
Claire says the council is now chasing her for rent as her housing benefit has been stopped. She is also getting demands for council tax.
She continues trying to call Universal Credit, but there is still no resolution, she said.
"It's been escalated five times now and with each case manager, they promise a full investigation and resolve and contact the next day. This contact either doesn't happen or I get an excuse and a promise of another call back the next day."
The Citizen forwarded Claire's case to Universal Credit and a spokesman promised to investigate as soon as possible,
He said: "“Universal Credit can be available to full-time students under certain conditions, including those responsible for a child or receiving other disability-related benefits.”