The Disability News Service (DNS) has published a collection of stories highlighting the cruelty inflicted on disabled claimants by universal credit. In particular, they highlight the tyranny of the UC journal system
One article covers the death of a disabled woman left traumatised by the daily demands of the UC system.
Rebecca (not her real name), took her own life just four days after being told she would need to attend a face-to-face meeting with a work coach.
The claimant would shake and cry every time she had to log onto her online universal credit journal, which she was forced to do every weekday to avoid having her benefits sanctioned.
Although Rebecca had been given a six-month “fit note” by her doctor that explained that she was not fit for work, she was still expected to have regular appointments with a work coach until her fitness for work could be assessed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contractor Maximus.
According to DNS, the DWP had been told of her mental distress, suicidal thoughts and fear of the department and the universal credit system, but this did not affect their treatment of her.
Another article covers the struggles of disabled claimant Philip Manion who saw his income from UC cut from £1,260 to £500 a month because of a mistake by the DWP.
When he tried to attend a meeting about the issue, he was prevented from entering the Jobcentre because he was unable to log into his online journal from his mobile phone.
He was then recorded as having failed to attend the meeting and his UC was completely stopped.
Manion’s long-term mental distress had previously been under control with the help of medication. Now he cannot face leaving his flat.
He said: “I can’t work, I can’t face anyone, and if I’m really honest I don’t want to be around anymore.”
Former nurse Shirley Rudolph spent 10 years caring for her husband and had been placed in the limited capability for work category due to generalised anxiety disorder.
In July Rudolph’s husband died and she told her work coach that she would be unable to attend a scheduled meeting because she was arranging her husband’s funeral.
The work coach expressed no sympathy whatsoever, delayed the appointment for just a week and sent Rudolph a job application to complete.
As a result, she ended her universal credit claim.
She said: “It doesn’t take much for me to think that I am worthless, due to childhood trauma. This woman in particular made me feel exactly that.
In a further article entitled Universal credit: ‘Chaos, fear and preventable deaths’ DNS interviewed disabled activists who talked about how the cruel system hounds claimants into complying with strict rules.
Particular criticism was reserved for the journal system, with one activist explaining that:
“Work coaches make demands that you have to jump to meet, but without key information, and then fail to provide that information despite repeated requests.
“The journal seems to work one way only, with the claimant’s communications simply ignored . . . So I am frequently left in states of high anxiety even though I am in the limited capability for work-related activity group due to mental distress.”
It is good news that the forced migration of ESA claimants to UC has now been postponed until 2028, but the system is urgently in need of reform for the sake of all those claimants who are already subject to its cruelties.