Protesters claimed the introduction of the new payment, which replaces a range of other benefits, is already having a huge impact on the city despite the roll-out here being in its early stages.
They claimed food banks are experiencing growing demand from families struggling to make ends meet, especially during the school holidays when children do not receive free meals, and people are dying as a result of the sanctions being imposed.
Jennifer Jones, who receives disability benefits, told how she was ‘living in dread’ of a brown envelope dropping through her letterbox telling her she was being transferred to Universal Credit.
“We’re here to demand an end to Universal Credit, which is a sorry and sick excuse for a welfare policy,” said the 39-year-old mother-of-two, from Gleadless.
“I’m a disabled parent with a disabled child, and one of the things you don’t hear a lot about is that currently I’m a carer for my son and I get £30 a week carers allowance, but when I go onto Universal Credit I’ll no longer be able to claim carers allowance because you can’t claim that and disability benefit at the same time.
“My son’s not going to disappear overnight, nor is his disability going to go away, but under Universal Credit I won’t get the extra support I need to take him to appointments, and I don’t know what we’ll do.
“Not even a tenth of the people who are going to be put on Universal Credit are already on it yet we’re already feeling the impact in Sheffield, and it’s not just the increased demand on food banks.
“We learned only this week how the Conservatives spent a quarter of a million pounds advertising Universal Credit – a failing system that’s causing people not just to suffer but to die.
“I’ve attended the funerals of two friends who died as a direct result of sanctions, both of whom had mental health difficulties and didn’t get the support they needed.”
Jennifer’s eight-year-old son Rio, who also took to the steps of Sheffield Town Hall during the rally, said: “I think we should scrap Universal Credit because a lot of children like me this summer won’t have much to eat because their parents are on it.”
The demonstration was part of a national day of action against Universal Credit organised by Unite, as a survey by the union found that nearly four fifths of parents on Universal Credit who were questioned said they found it hard to make ends meet during the school holidays.
Unite Community’s head Liane Groves said: “Despite knowing how Universal Credit is forcing claimants into poverty, the Government is still intent on ploughing ahead regardless, pushing families to the brink of survival.”
A government spokesman said: “This is a self-selecting survey made up of 0.05 per cent of the total number of households supported by Universal Credit.
“The benefit is helping people to improve their lives through work, and support is available to those who need it from day one of their claim.
“There are more people in work than ever before and wages continue to outstrip inflation, but we recognise that some families need more support.
“That’s why we’re investing £9 million in free summer holiday clubs and continuing to spend £95 billion a year on working age welfare to support families.”