Horror of living on Universal Credit laid bare as outrage becomes outcry to end it

Driven to tears: Holly Sargent’s story came to light exactly a year ago, when it was revealed she was having to sell all her possessions to survive because the DWP had failed to pay single instalment of Universal Credit, eight months after she first started claiming it.

The Tories’ insistence that Universal Credit is a force for good would be inexplicable by now, if not for the revelation that organisations working with them have been made to sign ‘gagging’ clauses, preventing them from criticising the Department for Work and Pensions and its secretary of state, Esther McVey.

Fortunately the mainstream media are at last waking up to the enormity of the crime that is being committed against some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – and the stories of their suffering are starting to proliferate.

Consider the case of Jimmy Ballentine, who took his own life last year. He had been struggling with depression and anxiety, worsened by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who hounded him incessantly for money they thought he owed them, according to his son Dale.

The younger Mr Ballentine has written to prime minister Theresa May, applauding her appointment of a new minister for suicide prevention but begging her to consider the effect of her benefit system on the suicide rate – and pleading with her to scrap the migration of benefit claimants onto Universal Credit.

Or how about Melanie Goss, from Somerset, who told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that her experience of Universal Credit had been an “absolute nightmare”?

She told Tory MP Nigel Mills, who sits on the Commons Work and Pensions committee he was “fumbling”, and said: “Pause it. How dare you just lump millions more other people next year on the same problem that everybody else is having.”

“It’s disgraceful. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Despite these stories, the Conservative government is determined to continue rolling out Universal Credit across the UK – as Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom made clear in a Commons clash with former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams:

It seems the DWP is to be the subject of a Parliamentary debate, covering all eight years of Conservative and Tory-led ‘reforms’ of the benefit system.

But don’t get your hopes up about it. We’ve had such debates before. They tend to be full of terrifying stories covering the agonies suffered by the Tories’ victims – but while the Tories are in charge, they result in no action at all.

The big question is, do enough people in the real world even care? Some believe most people would rather immerse themselves in the make-believe world of, for example, Strictly Come Dancing:


But I hope enough people do care – and they can prove it by signing a petition raised by the Labour Party, demanding that the roll-out of Universal Credit be stopped.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Tweeted: “The Tories’ Universal Credit is pushing families into poverty. They need to halt the roll-out now to stop it causing more suffering.

Sign the petition if you’re with us.

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  1. Simon Cohen October 13, 2018 at 7:53 am - Reply

    ‘The big question is, do enough people in the real world even care? Some believe most people would rather immerse themselves in the make-believe world of, for example, Strictly Come Dancing:’

    You’ve summed it up in one Mike.

    Our country is very divided as the polls continue to show. Neo-liberalism has created an I’m alright Jack attitude in many and with an economic ideology that vilifies the ill, unemployed and vulnerable we don’t have enough sense of connection with each other to create the level of outrage to change things.

    Many people sit zombified in front of 90″ screed surround sound T.V’s not able to see that what is being thrown at them is propaganda.

    It’s unbelievable that a banking crisis caused by excessive private debt that wrecked the world economy has resulted in a Government blaming the most helpless and vulnerable in our society and they got away with it.

    This has been only possible through neo-liberal media monopoly and grotesque dumbing down of the debate.

  2. Peter October 13, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

    This government have created a very toxic environment for the poor and disabled, if Theresa May has any decency she would end austerity like she said she was doing and scrap the Universal credit.

  3. trev October 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    These gagging clauses are the actions of a Dictatorship.

  4. Michael McNulty October 24, 2018 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    On the nationwide UC roll-out, when millions of the poorest people suddenly have no income for five weeks or more, rioting will break out then spread across the country. Some of the most disaffected become the most lawless, with little regard for anything or anybody, and I think they’ll try to burn the country to the ground. If their minimal income stops for a punitive length of time they’ll have no stake in this country at all.

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