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'I'm just completely trapped': Universal Credit claimants on how problems with benefit roll-out has affected them

For nearly three decades, Stephen Pogson enjoyed a successful career, paid his taxes and never claimed a penny in benefits.

But the death of his daughter in 2014 sent Mr Pogson into a spiral of chronic depression, leaving him unable to work.

Needing help, the 50-year-old applied for the government's flagship new Universal Credit scheme in September, but is yet to receive a penny.

Universal Credit merges six benefit payments into one, and is intended to streamline welfare payments, but instead it has been plagued by criticism since it was created by the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Critics claim flaws in the scheme - in particular waits of up to six weeks for the initial payment - are leaving people destitute, forcing vulnerable families to food banks and facing the threat of eviction.

Universal Credit will soon be rolled-out in Manchester. Credit: ITV News

Mr Pogson is one of those still waiting for payment and his situation is deteriorating by the day; his rent is in arrears; his electricity is at risk of being cut off and he's being forced to rely on friends to buy him food.

The constant financial worry has compounded his mental health problems.

"I can't do anything - everything is taken out of my hands. I can't make any decision about my future...I'm just completely trapped, waiting for something to happen," he worried.

"You're already in a much worse situation than you were when you first made the claim.

"I think it will be very difficult to get out of that spiral."

He continued that he feels worried and has a "lack of hope", with the whole situation leaving him "feeling awful and useless".

Having already applied for Universal Credit in Manchester, the former HMRC employee will be one of the first in the city to receive it when it is rolled out in the next few weeks.

Yet ahead of the roll-out, Manchester Citizens Advice centre has said it has already been flooded with calls from people concerned about it and wanting the welfare reform paused.

Rosi Hunter from Citizens Advice said the service is 'concerned with problems in the system'. Credit: ITV News

It is not just Universal Credit recipients who are "concerned" about its roll-out.

Rosi Hunter from Citizens Advice said the service is "concerned with problems in the system that mean that people are waiting six weeks for a payment".

Now recovering from a period of sleeping rough and studying for an apprenticeship after receiving help from charity Centrepoint, Harley Gibson is another of those still waiting to receive Universal Credit in Manchester.

The 20-year-old is against the scrapping of the reformed benefit system, but she too believes the six-week wait before recipients get their first payment is "just too long" and the system needs reforming even before it is fully underway.

However, the Government says Universal Credit works for the vast majority of claimants and that advance payments are available.

Harley Gibson turned down the offer of an advance payment as she was worried she could end up in debt. Credit: ITV News

Yet the offer of an advance payment was something that Ms Gibson turned down as she worried that she could be unable to pay it back, and could end up in debt.

Despite the misgivings of critics and those who are yet to receive their payments, Prime Minister Theresa May has refused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's call to halt the new benefit system's roll-out, instead insisting that Universal Credit is "working".

On Wednesday evening, in a symbolic victory for Labour over Mrs May's minority Government, MPs backed a motion to pause Universal Credit in a House of Commons vote by 299 to 0.

A vote on the Labour-led motion was forced in the Commons against the backdrop of the Conservatives whipping their MPs to abstain, a move criticised by senior Tory Sarah Wollaston who voted in favour of Labour's motion, the only Tory MP to do so.