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People on Universal Credit go days without eating in ‘Benefit Street’ area

People living on Universal Credit have lifted the lid on going days without eating and struggling to get by in one of the country’s most deprived areas.

One in every six adults in Manningham, Bradford, are dependent on social security payments, and they are facing up to life becoming more difficult.

Mohammed Ali, 63, who can barely pay his bills, says he is often unable to put food on the table.

He told Yorkshire Live : “I haven’t eaten for the last two days.

“All I’ve got is about eight tea bags and a bit of sugar left. I haven’t even got any milk. Everything is empty.

” To be honest with you, it’s very hard.”



Mohammed said life is hard, and it faces getting even more difficult
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Image:

Kristian Johnson / Reach plc)




For Mohammed Ali, every single day is a struggle to make ends meet.

The 63-year-old can barely pay his bills or buy new clothes – and he often finds that he can’t put food on the table.

“In the last two days I have run out of everything,” he says.

“I have been drinking black tea. I don’t even like it, but I have to.”

As stark as Mohammed’s situation is, he is not the only resident in Manningham, Bradford, who lives on the breadline.

He is one of more than 2,000 people in the inner-city suburb who rely on Universal Credit. It means one in every six adults aged 16+ in Manningham are dependent on the social security payment – more than anywhere else in Yorkshire.

Mohammed gets £55.80 a week, but he still relies on nearby family members for food.

“I haven’t got a cooker,” he admits.



Nusrat Naheed, 57, who has lived in Manningham for 18 years, struggles to make ends meet
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Image:

Kristian Johnson / Reach plc)




“It would be £300 – £400 and then people want to charge money to install it. £50, £60, £70.

“Sometimes I go without food. Maybe two or three days at a time.

“My family have been away, but today I’m going to eat because they are back. They phoned me earlier and said when they are back they will make me dinner.”

Once he has paid his gas and electricity bills, plus all other outgoings, his incredibly slim pay packet simply doesn’t stretch far enough.

“It’s not enough money for me,” he says.

“If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live here.”

Just a few hours before he sat down to speak to YorkshireLive in his one-bedroom bungalow on Rose Street, Mohammed received a heartbreaking phone call.

“My nephew rang me at 5.30am this morning to tell me my sister is in hospital in Nottingham,” he says.

“She might not survive much longer.”



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For many of us, receiving such traumatic news would lead us to immediately jump in the car to visit our loved ones.

But it’s not that simple for Mohammed.

“I am hoping she doesn’t pass away in the next four or five days,” he explains. “I need to get a bit of money to catch the bus to go to Nottingham.

“To be honest with you, I was thinking today of selling my phone to get money. £15 or £20 for a return ticket. That’s all I’ve got.

“I have to go and pay my respects to my sister. If it comes to it, I’ll have to do it. I have to go and pay respect to my sister before they bury her.”

Just a few doors down from Mohammed is Nusrat Naheed, who also relies on Universal Credit.

The 57-year-old has severe issues with her sight and regularly needs to make trips to the hospital or doctors surgery, but that all comes at an extra cost.

“I need taxis to get to my appointments when I go to the hospital or to my doctors,” she says.

“In this weather I can manage [walking], but not in winter.”



A number of community programmes are run from the Millan Centre in Manningham, Bradford
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Millan Centre)




However, Nusrat’s main concern is paying her phone bill. Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, she has become more reliant on telephone appointments than ever before.

She says: “I try to manage my money, but I struggle to pay my mobile phone bill. Everywhere is phone, phone, phone.

“I need to top up every week but it’s very, very expensive for me.

“Then there is the electricity bill, gas bill, Yorkshire Water bill and council bill as well. Then I need food, drink, clothes. There are a lot of expenses.

“I struggle a lot, because it [Universal Credit] is not enough money.”

Like Mohammed, she admits her financial situation means she does not always eat full meals.

“I have to eat very carefully. Sometimes I have to have very small meals.”

Despite her precarious position, Nusrat praises a number of local services and charities that help her with daily tasks.

Her poor eyesight means she often cannot read letters that come through the post, but staff at the local community centre help her with this.

She also name-checks the Millan Centre, a community-based charity that provides dedicated support to women and girls in Manningham.



The Millan Centre in Manningham, Bradford, runs community support programmes
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Millan Centre)




One of its chief aims is to help women into local jobs in the surrounding areas.

It runs workshops to give women the skills they need to earn money and has close links with the local Jobcentres, who advertise classes run by the Millan Centre.

“We’re trying to get people into employment,” says centre administrator Aaisha Esmail.

“People will come here to learn how to sew and then they can go off and build that into their own little home business.”

Aaisha believes that many people in Manningham do have the skills they need to build a career, but they sometimes need a bit of guidance or encouragement.

“A lot of women here are so talented, they just don’t have the confidence,” she says.

“We see so many people from different countries and they’ve got degrees and so many skills, but when they come here it’s obviously a whole new country.

“There is a language barrier sometimes and it’s down to confidence.

“For example, we saw a lady who came here and before long she was teaching the other women because she felt comfortable.

“The teacher was even listening to her, which is incredible.”







The situation in Manningham is bleak for so many though. 16.6 per cent of all adults aged 16+ were on Universal Credit in July, far higher than the Bradford average of 8.9 per cent and more than three times as high as the Great Britain average of 5.5 per cent.

The Department for Work and Pensions recognises that it is an area that faces more challenges than most in terms of boosting employment.

Angela McVay, senior employer and partnership lead at the Bradford Jobcentre, says: “Throughout Covid, our Universal Credit claims have increased, but over the last couple of months – certainly in the Bradford area – it is beginning to show a little bit of a better picture.

“A lot of that is to do with all the support that the Jobcentre and the DWP is putting in place for people to help them get back into work.”

One of the schemes specifically suited to younger people in the city is the Kickstart programme. It is designed to help people aged 16-24 back into work and more than 700 job opportunities have opened up in Bradford after support from Bradford Council.

But for Mohammed and N usrat, other programmes are more suitable.

“We’ve got support in place for 50+ customers and we’ve got a new programme called Restart which is for people who have been unemployed a little bit longer,” says Angela.

“We have a full catalogue of organisations that we work with.

“Whatever your barrier, whatever your challenges, whatever you are struggling with, we have work coaches who can help.

“We’ll link in with our partner organisations in the Bradford area to provide that support.”

But for millions of people across the UK on Universal Credit, there are concerns that things could be about to get even worse.

A temporary £20 a week uplift was introduced during the pandemic, but this is due to be phased out from late September. It means almost two million people will start to see a drop in their Universal Credit from next month.

For Mohammed and so many others like him, it would be a bitter blow following months of struggling to feed himself.

“The last year has been hard for me, but I just about managed,” he says.

“I just thank God every day that I am healthy and still here.”



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