EX-CORRIE actor Bruce Jones, who played Les Battersby, has slammed the “ridiculous” five week wait for cash on Universal Credit.
The 66-year-old retired former soap star now lives in Wales – but he once ended up living in a caravan and on benefits after blowing his £1million showbiz fortune.
Bruce, who appeared on the iconic ITV soap between 1997 and 2007, has had to claim cash from the welfare system twice in his life – once before Corrie, and once after.
“People are absolutely drowning in debt with the ridiculous waits for the cash – it is appalling incompetence that it has got to this,” said Bruce speaking to The Sun to back our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
“There are tens of thousands of families on low incomes grossly let down by the Government’s failings.
“Nowadays we have kids going into school hungry as their families are on the Universal Credit and it’s not working.
“There are families in Wales and in Abergele, where I live, who are on their uppers with this. I gave some parents I know £20 to help them get some food in for their kids.
“I could safely say very few people want to be on Universal Credit, in my experience, I know that people would much prefer to work and have a purpose in life.
“I was a working class man and when I was first signed on I got back out to work as soon as I could.
“I’ve been following the Universal Credit disaster in The Sun and on telly and it’s obvious to anyone that it’s not been working.”
The Sun wants the five-week wait for your first payment to be slashed to two weeks.
‘Being out of work was hard to bear – it was depressing’
The first time Bruce had to sign on was in the mid-80s before his fame when he was involved in a factory accident.
At the time, he was living with his hairdresser second wife, Sandra, and the couple were looking after Bruce’s two sons, John and Stephen, from his first marriage to Sue, and Sandra’s two daughters, who were all schoolchildren at the time.
“I still wanted to be the breadwinner and found being out of work hard to bear,” said Bruce.
“It was depressing; as the man of the house I felt I should be going out and bringing home the wages.”
Bruce was unable to work after a piece of metal split in the factory where he worked, cutting through his wrist.
He added: “There was blood everywhere and I was very lucky to have my thumb and two fingers saved by the NHS.
“I underwent a five hour operation and after a spell on sick pay I had to go on benefits as the injury was slow to heal.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
“The kids were young then, so knew nothing of how bad I felt having to sign on for the first time in my life. I had worked every day since leaving school and it was not something I wanted to do.
“It was about six months I was on it and my wife had a good job as a hairdresser, so we got around £650 that first time round.
“But I was a working class man, being a househusband wasn’t what I was about. I got back out working as a part-time firefighter as soon as I was signed off fit for work again.”
‘Claiming benefits after Corrie was embarrassing’
The second time Bruce was on benefits was just four years ago in 2015.
He’d been axed from Corrie in 2007 after reportedly revealing secret storylines, which had sent him into a spiral of depression and alcohol abuse.
He exclusively told The Sun in 2015: “I didn’t know I had depression. I just felt bad. A friend came in because he was worried about me. I’d been in my pyjamas for four days. I never moved.
“My wife got me to the doctor who wanted to give me pills.
“But I told him, ‘I’m not taking anti-depressants. I’ll get myself out of it’. Which is easier said than done.
“It’s a hell of a comedown. I was mobbed by people coming up to ask for my autograph. I had a good job, nice car, houses, the best holidays. It all went.”
At one point, things had gotten so bad that Bruce was living in a caravan. He’d spent his £1million fortune and had his £500,000 Cheshire home, and then a bungalow in North Wales, both repossessed by the banks as he battled to pay off overwhelming debts.
Bruce said: “Being on Corrie it was much worse claiming benefits as people recognised me in the Job Centre.
“It was embarrassing and though nobody said anything to me, I knew that I was instantly recognisable and the Job Centre wasn’t really the place I wanted to be.
“I had got a National Insurance bill out of the blue and had felt I had always paid my stamp, so when I spoke with the Job Centre they told me to sign on.
“I did so for about six weeks or so and got about £200 and that cleared the National Insurance. I would never, ever sign on again after that experience.
“Once again I found it pretty soul-destroying and disheartening, but I had done it at their request to clear a National Insurance bill and it worked.”
‘Nowadays we have kids going to school hungry as Universal Credit isn’t working’
Luckily for Bruce, he is now living in his own home and surviving off three private pensions, as well as the state pension.
But his tough upbringing means he’s able to sympathise with people forced to survive on benefits today.
Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.
Bruce said: “When I first signed on decades ago, nobody wanted to do it, we were working class, but if there were no jobs, or you were injured like me with a hand problem, then you had to look after the family.
“In my experience I’d say most people want to work as opposed to being unemployed.
“The people at the dole office, knew you were not signing on for fun and they ensured you got your money inside a week, or so.
“I don’t recall people needing pay day loans, or handouts back then from friends, or family, just to keep a roof over their heads.
“Even a couple of years ago, the benefits were nothing like this Universal Credit fiasco and the funds came through without major delay.
“I have a friend who has signed on and he tells me the delays and the hoops he has to jump through are shocking.
“It is necessity brought on by hardship that puts people in a position, where they have to claim benefit. The vast majority would want to work if only they could.”
‘I can’t believe families are made to wait five weeks before getting Universal Credit’
Bruce, who also slept on the streets for the BBC documentary, Famous, Rich and Homeless, in 2009 added: “I did a programme about a decade ago called Famous, Rich and Homeless and slept on the streets for that, so I have seen hardship first hand.
“I cannot believe that the Universal Credit system thought it was a good idea to leave it five weeks before giving a family any funds!
“No wonder we have food banks springing up all over and thank God we do as they are filling a desperate need that the Government should be doing.
“Begging is up 10 or 20 fold since they introduced Universal Credit and people are only doing that through desperation.
“They say seven million families will be on Universal Credit, so that is a hell of a lot of people who need our support, not a system that puts them further on the breadline.
“I’ve had flu after Christmas and it was horrendous. I just wonder how many homeless people that bug has claimed, or even the families on the breadline not able to put the heating on, because their Universal Credit hasn’t come through.
“It makes you shudder when you think this is all happening in the fifth richest country on the planet.”
‘Very few people want to be on Universal Credit’
Bruce also believes that people don’t want to be on Universal Credit, and that they want to work.
“It is hard enough being unemployed, but putting people through the protracted Universal Credit system is almost Dickensian by nature. It needs to be speeded up to help the very poorest people in our society and they do need help.
“It’s like they are trying to take us back to the Victorian days with six to nine people sleeping in the one room for warmth, as they can’t afford the heating.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions, said: “Universal Credit is a force for good.
“It replaces an out-of-date, complex system and more than 1.6million people are now receiving support successfully.
“We’ve listened to feedback and made important changes including 100 per cent advance payments available from day one and extra housing support at the start of someone’s claim.”
More on Universal Credit
Since launching in 2013, Universal Credit has been riddled with issues, so The Sun is campaigning for change.
The wages of working families are also hit hard by the taper rate which deducts 63p from your benefits payment for every £1 you earn over the £198 work allowance – we want this dropped to 50p.
Parents trying to get back into work are entitled to claim up to 85 per cent of childcare costs but will only get the cash back in arrears – but we want the welfare state to fund these costs upfront.
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