A single mum from Branston claims she lived on toast for a month so she could afford to feed her four children hot meals after her benefits were revoked.
Cassie McTaggart has told how she stopped receiving her Healthy Start vouchers - which are intended to help the poorest benefit claimants and can be used to purchase milk, baby formula, fruit and vegetables - without notification in September.
The mum claims this meant she had to sacrifice her own food and lived on a single loaf of bread a week for a whole month to ensure she could provide for her six-month-old daughter and three young boys, aged five, seven and eight.
Her vouchers were reinstated the following month, but the 31-year-old fears she will have to go through a similar experience when she switches to Universal Credit due an “unnecessary delay” in making the transition.
She said: “I’m concerned that the most vulnerable people are being persecuted by the Government. My Healthy Start vouchers were revoked without warning and I didn’t realise until the following month when I was short of money.
“I lived on a single loaf of bread a week for the whole month so I could feed my children hot food and provide for them properly.
“Some days I went without food completely as I always put the children first. I simply couldn’t afford food for myself and I have no support from the children’s fathers. I had to borrow money from the family and friends to get by.”
She added: “If they had informed me that the vouchers were going to be revoked I could have at least prepared for it. But I had no warning whatsoever and I suffered for it physically and mentally.
“I lost a lot of weight and I felt very stressed and depressed. It was a horrific period and I don’t know how they expected me to feed my children.
“I have never received an apology or an explanation as to why it happened. They said it was just an error with their systems.”
Her vouchers equalled £6.10 a week. They are available to parents on a range of low-income benefits if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four.
Miss McTaggart, of Festival Road, Branston, Burton, said: “I’m concerned the same thing will happen when I switch to Universal Credit because of the unnecessary delay in getting your first payment.
“I’ve heard stories about people waiting up to six weeks for their benefits. There’s no way we could survive six weeks without money.
“The Jobcentre has already told me to prepare and start saving money for the transition period. But I haven’t got any money to save, that’s the problem.”
Healthy Start is run by the Department of Health and Universal Credit is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
A spokesman for the DWP said: "Existing benefit claimants will be transferred automatically to Universal Credit at the relevant time. Waiting periods apply to new claims only.
"Healthy Start vouchers are available to eligible parents on Universal Credit."