Universal Credit claimants in Yorkshire have resorted to GoFundMe campaigns to make ends meet

Yorkshire's largest city is fifth on a list of areas where a growing number of Universal Credit (UC) claimants have been appealing for money online, it has been revealed.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 5:00 pm

More than 800 campaigns linked to the controversial benefit have been set up on crowdfunding site GoFundMe in the past year nationally - a five-fold rise from the year before.

-> Universal Credit branded a 'jaw dropping failure' as investigation shows its toll in YorkshirePoverty charity Turn2us said the situation was “really quite shocking”.

With Universal Credit blamed by some for a rise in food handouts by charities, the site has also seen an increasing number of cash appeals for food banks.

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More than two million people are on Universal Credit.

Data shared exclusively with the JPIMedia Data unit by GoFundMe reveals more than 1,100 crowdfunding campaigns have mentioned UC since 2013.

Leeds is placed fifth in the list with a total of 22 campaigns split between 11 Universal Credit and 11 food banks.

For both UC and food banks combined, there were 16 in Sheffield, 13 in Doncaster and 10 in Wakefield.

In Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole, there were 138.

Benefits changes have taken their toll on some claimants.

It comes after the JPIMedia Investigations team revealed in May that, in Yorkshire and the Humber, data from 11 local authorities showed that 15,844 claimants in council homes had been in rent arrears, to the value of £8,879,713 - over a tenth of the sum owed in the UK.

-> Interactive - A JPIMedia Investigation: UNIVERSAL CREDIT IN CRISISAcross the nation, the GoFundMe campaigns received more than 6,000 donations, raising at least £250,000, according to the website.

As many of the campaigns are no longer live, JPIMedia Data cannot say in what context the benefit was mentioned in the appeals.

More than £500,000 has also been donated to campaigns mentioning food banks, although the data will include any appeals for pet food banks or overseas food banks.

The area with the highest number of crowdfunding campaigns in the six year period from 2013 to 2019 was Birmingham, with 39, followed by Glasgow, with 32.

While the overall number of fundraisers set up on GoFundMe has risen by some 38 per cent in the past year, the number mentioning Universal Credit has grown far more rapidly, which the site attributed partly to the benefit’s continuing roll-out.

There are currently around 2.5 million people now on UC in the UK.

-> Bradford singled out in report showing 'scale of suffering' from two-child limit on Universal Credit and tax creditsSara Willcocks, of poverty charity Turn2us, said: “Our social security system was created in the 20th century to stop people from going hungry and having to rely on the generosity of strangers for help.

"Needless to say, the scale of people in a 21st century society having to resort to crowdfunding so they can survive day to day is really quite shocking.”

A spokesperson for GoFundMe added: "The powerful thing about tools such as GoFundMe is people adapt them to the needs they have.

"We hope one day that people will not need to crowdfund to be able to meet basic needs. Until then, our tools are here for people to give and get help when people are in need."

‘We’ve made improvements’

The Department for Work and Pensions said people on Universal Credit can get paid urgently if they need it.

A spokesperson said: “Universal Credit provides a vital safety net for people who are out of work or on low wages with more than 2.5 million people supported by it.

“It’s a better, simpler system that will see 700,000 families get on average £285 more a month than under the previous one.

“And as we’ve rolled it out, we’ve made improvements such as increasing advances to 100 per cent, removing the seven day waiting period and continuing housing benefit for the first two weeks.”