A NURSE who works on the frontline against coronavirus says she is forced to survive on Universal Credit.
Rachel Floyd, 33, claims she's left with just £80 left in her pocket a month after bills and travel expenses.
The single mum works 22.5 hours a week for the NHS and looks after her two young children in Swansea.
She says Universal Credit rules prevent her claiming for travel and a full £500 bonus for NHS staff in Wales.
As part of her job, Rachel drives across the country caring for deeply unwell patients inside their homes.
The community nurse, who must use her own personal vehicle, has forked out "thousands" in fuel expenses.
She told Wales Online: "I understand that there are a million other nurses just like myself who are struggling.
"It's not due to the NHS but the cold-hearted government and the 'one size fits all' benefits system."
Rachel explained: "I receive a monthly top-up via a Universal Credit payment which helps each month.
"We are meant to claim back any expenses each month which will then be paid with our monthly salary.
"However any monies paid with my salary that are over my allowance for each pound Universal Credit will deduct 63p.
"So for every pound I fuelled my car I received an income tax deduction of 20 per cent plus a reduction of 63p per pound.
"My fuel expenses are not an earning. I have contacted Universal Credit, who are of no help, and explained that it is paid with my salary so classed as an earning – even though it is clearly stated as expenses on my payslip."
Rachel says she has had to contact nurse charities to help with her shortfall and has been close to using food banks.
She said: "We do not have a lavish lifestyle. Day-to-day expenses are impossible to manage as the cost of living goes up.
"But our salary remains the same – we work more, we get paid less."
She said while a bonus payment from the Welsh Government is to be welcomed, people in her situation will not benefit.
Rachel said: "It's fantastic for the higher earning-households who are not on any benefits as they will see the full £500.
"But us part-time individuals doing the same role will only see perhaps £185, if not less.
"The bonus payment that we all deserve is not going to benefit those who need it the very most. It creates disparity between lower and higher earners – a reverse Robin Hood."
For two months during the pandemic, Rachel said she worked full-time to help her primary care team with the workload and staff sickness.
But she ended up needing to take substantial amounts of time off due to her 10-year-old daughter, Lola, becoming very unwell with Covid. She also said her take-home pay hardly changed at all.
Rachel said: "Lola developed paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome as a result of contracting Covid-19 and spent a week in Morriston Hospital's high-dependency unit.
"The inflammatory syndrome affected the function of her left ventricle. This was in January and my daughter is only now slowly gaining her strength and function."
Rachel, who used to work as a cardiac nurse, said her and colleagues are now "extremely overstretched".
She added: "We are often the forgotten army of nurses. We never take our lunch break as there is never time, we very rarely stop for a comfort break because our office is our car, and our workload does not allow time for this.
"I cannot remember the last time I took a 30 minute lunch break or finished on time. However this is now the norm and we just accept it."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We thank all NHS staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
"Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit – bonuses are treated as earnings and payments are gradually reduced as someone’s earning increase."
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