GRANDPARENTS forced to live on £4.50 a week under the Government’s controversial new benefits system say their lives have been “ruined”.

Brightonian Carol Richardson, 57, said she and her 68-year-old partner David McLoughlin have had to rely on a foodbank after being urged to sign up to Universal Credit.

Under the scheme she said they are reliant solely on his state pension, once reductions are made.

She said: “We’ve worked all our lives and this is how the Government treats us at the end. They expect us to live off £9 a fortnight for the next ten years.”

Carol has coronary heart disease, vascular disease, and osteoarthritis, but does not qualify for health benefits. She was previously a cleaner and a carer. David is a pensioner who retired after being in the army for 10 years and working as a painter and decorator for more than 30 years.

Carol said: “We have no quality of life now. We’re in debt. We can’t afford to go anywhere. I can’t get to my hospital appointments unless I can get a lift. If it wasn’t for the foodbank, I don’t know what we’d do.”

Carol has now been coming to collect food at St Cuthmans Church in Whitehawk for two months.

She said: “It’s been very hard. The council referred us and I pick up cereals, soup, sometimes vegetables – just the basics. I can get enough for three meals a day. I don’t know what we’d do without it because £4.50 a week is not going to get us anywhere.”

Carol explained the couple’s rent is just under £100 a week, bills are about £25, and they have hire purchase repayments of roughly £35, leaving them with £9 a fortnight from her husband’s £658 monthly state pension – £4.50 a week.

She said: “The Department for Work and Pensions misinformed us. We were told to sign up for Universal Credit – but if we’d gone on pensions credit instead before the August 13 deadline, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Staff at the foodbank reckon we’d be about £600 better off.

“On Universal Credit, they take David’s state pension out of the money we’re entitled to as a couple, we don’t get any housing benefit, and we now have to pay the bedroom tax, which we didn’t before.

“It’s so depressing. We’ve fought for months. Whenever we phone up about Universal Credit, nobody comes back. It’s always somebody else’s fault.

“My daughter is absolutely disgusted by it all. She helps out when she can, but you can’t be expected to rely on your children, especially when they’ve got children of their own to look after. I haven’t told many relatives – it’s embarrassing for us.

“But people need to know what they’re doing to pensioners like my partner David.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it could only look into the couple's circumstances after receiving her national insurance number, address and explicit consent in the form of a screenshot of a text message or a copy of an e-mail.

A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: ““We have not been given the opportunity to investigate Ms Richardson and Mr McLoughlin’s case in detail.

"If Ms Richardson has health conditions that prevent her from working she may be entitled to more support and should make the jobcentre aware.

“Only single pensioners and pensioner couples can claim Pension Credit. If one partner is of working age, we believe it’s fair that the same incentives to work and save for retirement apply to them.”