James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Business owner desperate to hear from Universal Credit as she tries to keep afloat
16 April 2020, 15:38
This caller owns a small retail shop and is desperate to find out whether she qualifies for Universal Credit - she keeps contacting them to no avail.
Fanoula runs an occasion-wear boutique in Brentwood on the high street, so her outgoings include rent, business rates and paying suppliers.
"The closure of businesses came just in the middle of my peak season... I've got a beautiful shop full of beautiful dresses and I'm in a situation where I don't seem to qualify for Universal Credit through a loophole in my system.
"Even though I became a PAYE of my company on 1st March, I don't qualify to furlough myself. Really I've no way of replacing my income right now.".
Any finance she does have, she needs to devote to the future to keep her business running after the pandemic.
"I can't afford to not pay my suppliers, if I don't pay my suppliers I don't have a business. I think this is the big challenge for small retailers...we need to have some sort of cash in the bank.
"I've heard a couple of stories where people have had great responses and have been able to get their Universal Credit, I'm writing through this system, just tell me either way. Do I qualify and when will I get that relief? I'm not having any response."
Shelagh acknowledged that other small business owners who have contacted LBC seem to be in similar situations.
"Why shouldn't I qualify for it? I was a PAYE up to a year ago when I gave up my full time job, and paid lots of tax as a PAYE, and I've never had Universal Credit and never asked the country for anything even when I didn't have a job.
"Now when I need it, why don't I get it?" Fanoula asked, telling Shelagh her credit score is already plummeting as she must continue to finance her outgoings.
"Why shouldn't I get that, however small amount, of Universal Credit?"