Sharyce Berry cradles her 10-month-old daughter Nova on the sofa as the baby fidgets for freedom, desperate to run around the flat.

The 19-year-old mum, who has lived in Lewisham for much of her life, laughs as she watches her daughter toddle around, while recalling a time when she was less resilient.

“She keeps me going. I’ve been through periods where I’ve had suicidal thoughts - but she really cheers me up. I have to stay afloat for her.

“She gives me energy. She’s such a ray of sunshine.”

Despite the strong bond between Sharyce and Nova, the young mum struggles to make ends meet – living off less than £400 a month.

“I honestly don’t know how I’m doing it,” Sharyce says. “There are days when sometimes I might have to go without.”

The mum-of-one, who grew up in foster care for most of her life, receives income support and child benefit, but she is being pushed to enrol for universal credit.

“I have friends who have been on universal credit and they have struggled. My friend has just had a baby and one month she was given just £5. That was all she had to her name,” Sharyce describes.

Her main worry about universal credit is the bulk payment, which she then has to use to pay her rent, bills and make ends meet.

“I’m not saying that I can’t manage my money, but there’s that temptation when you haven’t got any money that you could dip into your rent money. That’s how people end up homeless.”

Sharyce’s fears about universal credit have left her with less money than she is entitled to, but she firmly believes her situation is better than the alternative.

“I’d rather go without to be able to have a roof over my head. I know what it’s like to be homeless and it’s not nice at all.”

And the young mum regularly goes without in order to keep her family afloat.

“I’ve had breakdowns because I haven’t got money. I’ll sit here and I’ll think: ‘Oh my God, there’s nothing in the fridge to eat’.

“I’m very good at using what I have to make do, but sometimes I might not even have food to make anything and I think: ‘Oh my God, what’s [Nova] going to eat?’”

Sharyce’s social worker has given the mum and daughter vouchers for the foodbank, but Sharyce has her doubts.

“I don’t want to be taking [Nova] to a foodbank when she’s five years old and have her asking me why we’re there,” she describes.

The ambitious care leaver is determined to break out of her situation when Nova is older by pursuing a career in counselling for women who have experienced sexual abuse, drawing from her own experiences.

“I want to help other girls to prevent them falling into that situation.

“I took a wrong path because I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have any family. I had absolutely nothing to my name,” she says.

But under the system of universal credit, Sharyce fears more and more people will find themselves in vulnerable positions like hers.

“Something needs to change because universal credit is supposed to be here to help. And it’s not helping.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “People should not delay applying for the benefits they’re entitled to – this can lead to financial hardship and increased debt.

“People concerned about their benefits should speak to jobcentre staff, or Citizens Advice, which provides an independent and free Help To Claim service for Universal Credit.”