The story of David Strong, a Universal Credit claimant unable to work due to epilepsy who was forced to beg for food and eat out of bins after a DWP “error” left him trying to live on £16 a week, has provoked a huge reaction from Vox Political readers.
“Errors” that leave vulnerable people struggling to survive have rightly made the Department for Work and Pensions infamous over the years since the Conservatives took office in 2010 – and every single reader who responded had their own horror story to tell.
Deborah Denison – who does have a job – started the ball rolling [all boldings mine]: “I’ve been on Universal Credit for four years… I’ve had to look at my lifestyle and reduce my outgoings. I have given up home insurance, pet insurance … no TV licence, no mobile phone, no nights out, no new clothes, no treats, no holidays.
“I have arrears with my council tax and rent and I’ve had to use food banks, which can only be used twice a year so it looks like I’ll be going hungry sometime in the next six months.
“The council thinks that moving me into a smaller property will help… Why would I move to solve a problem that universal credit has created? My main problem is I’m paid fortnightly and universal credit is paid monthly so three times a year, when there’s five weeks in the months, I get three wages so get nothing from Universal Credit. This has caused my arrears with rent and council tax.
“Im dreading the winter and [will] not be able to afford to heat my home to a standard of comfort. I’ve always worked and I hope to continue doing so. Being unemployed would destroy me [but] ends don’t meet anymore. And after all these years of being a single parent this is the worst struggle I’ve ever had to face, food and heat is not a luxury. I’m going without things I’ve never had to go without. It’s soul destroying.”
Ms Denison’s comment led to a deluge of responses. Here’s “Trev”, a regular commenter: “I’ve been living like that for years. I haven’t had an holiday for 16 years, and it must be about six years since I had a night out in a pub. If I need clothes it’s the charity shop. I do have a mobile phone though, but it’s rapidly becoming outdated.”
“I hear that!” responded ‘Gizmo’. “I work two jobs, my wife is disabled and thanks to UC I’m virtually destitute. I’m trying to get driving [work] so pulled in some overtime to cover an ill colleague and for my efforts we’ll get less money this month than if I hadn’t done the extra shifts. How is this even legal?
“My wife is constantly hounded to get employed; she has arthritis in her knee so can’t stand or walk, constant spasms in her back meaning she can’t sit for extended periods and finds herself bedridden most of the time. I get scowled at when I need to go to [the Job Centre Plus] as if I’m scum and taking from the state!
“We have to pay back a tonne of “overpayments” because they can’t even do their job properly!
“And to top it off I am being told to look for other work as well!”
‘Mark’ raised the issue of medical evidence. After an accident at work in which he damaged his spine, his doctor refused to order scans to ascertain the nature of the damage. Was this because the cost would have blown their personal budgets, as defined since the Tories took over the National Health Service and started privatising it?
He described a history of struggling to get the medical help he needs. Meanwhile, the DWP decided he was fit for work: “I had a fitness for work test what was full of lies all from start to finish… My doctor who I have now still says I am not fit for work and signs me off. The DWP threaten me with sanctions over the phone, telling me that there is nothing wrong with me and I was found fit for work. My doctor is disgusted [with] how I am being treated.
“The UC should be scrapped altogether. The Conservatives know fine well it does not work – it was designed to make the poor suffer even more.”
He added: “Anybody who reads this, my answer to you is don’t give up fighting the DWP.”
Have you been affected by “errors” that have forced you towards poverty – or even endangered your life? Tell us your story.
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