A Somerset man, who was left partially paralysed after suffering a stroke, may be forced to sell his house. This is because he has accumulated high levels of debt whilst waiting to receive benefit payments.
Chris Gold was initially refused the Universal Credit benefit after being told he should be working.
This was despite Chris suffering brain damage as well as paralysis following the stroke.
After a life driving a lorry around the world, in a job he loved, Chris now rarely leaves the downstairs of his house.
His current situation means that he can barely afford to live there at all.
A stroke in 2015 left Chris with brain damage and without feeling in parts of his body.
When his employment and support allowance was stopped he was told to apply for the new Universal Credit. However when he did so, he was told he should be working.
Chris said, "The doctor's given me a sick note saying I'm unfit for work - I have to do what the doctors tell me. They've got the knowledge - they know how stroke victims are."
"I just think it's unfair that the Department for Work and Pensions can do this to people when they're unwell. Irrespective of what they say, the doctors are saying I'm not well."
"I want to keep the house because I've worked hard for thirty eight years but it just seems unfair that I've worked all my life to buy a house and now I'm going to end up with nothing."
Universal Credit replaces six means-tested benefits giving one monthly payment.
The government began its full rollout last year and aims to complete it by September 2018.
The six means-tested benefits that have been replaced are:
- Housing Benefit
- Income-Related ESA (Employment and Support Allowance)
- Income-Based JSA (Jobseeker's Allowance)
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income Support
Chris's story isn't isolated, one Somerset charity says it's seen a growing number of people who are struggling to apply for it.
Rhoda Cooke, from Citizens Advice Taunton, said "It has caused a huge surge in advice enquiries from our clients - a ten fold increase on last year."
"The benefit is paid monthly, in arrears, and most people don't get their first payment until about six to eight weeks after their initial claim. That is a huge wait for people."
"As a result, our referrals to the local food bank have soared. Clients having to rack up debt or live on credit cards while they're waiting for that first payment is actually becoming quite a reality."
The Department for Work and Pensions said it has looked into Chris Gold's case and a JobCentre plus advisor has visited him to discuss his claim and help him access the support available to him.
Chris is hoping to receive his backdated Universal Credit soon, but he says most of it will go on clearing up the debts he's built up this year.