Sussex

Universal Credit: Benefits adviser in childcare legal bid

Nichola Salvato
Image caption Nichola Salvato said he got into £2,000 of debt to pay childcare

A benefits adviser has launched a legal claim against the government over childcare rules she says have left her thousands of pounds in debt.

Nichola Salvato, a single parent from East Sussex, said she was struggling under Universal Credit, which forces parents to pay upfront for childcare and claim the money back.

She is backed by Save The Children, which says the policy is unlawful.

A government spokesman said they could not comment on an ongoing legal case.

Ms Salvato, 48, who lives with daughter Sofia, 11, in Portslade, said she has been forced to borrow £2,000 from friends, family, and payday loans, to cover the payments.

"The interest on those loans are enormous, the stress is enormous, the worry and the embarrassment," she said.

Universal Credit replaced six other benefits with a single monthly payment for people out of work or on a low income.

Under the rules, parents can claim back up to £646 per month for each child under 16, to fund 85% of their childcare costs.

Image caption Hannah Greer, from Save the Children, said the policy is unlawful

Save the Children argue the rules are unlawful, discriminatory, and breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hannah Greer, of the charity, said: "People on a low income don't have savings available, so asking them to pay £1,000 or more a month up front without support is a big deal.

"One mum we spoke had to sell her car to pay for her childcare costs.

"The money needs to be available to the parents before they pay the costs."

Ms Salvato said she was proud of her job but wants to set an example for her daughter.

A decision on whether the case can proceed to the High Court is expected within two weeks.

More on this story