What: A man with learning difficulties died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto the government’s “chaotic” universal credit benefit system that left him hundreds of pounds in debt. An account of the tragedy, written by the man’s sister, Maggie, is just one of scores of pieces of written evidence submitted to the inquiry being carried out by Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (see 16 November 2018). Maggie, from London, describes what had happened to her brother, John, who had cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. Maggie told how John, who lived in sheltered housing, had previously been “a positive happy person” before he was found fit for work and forced onto universal credit and the government’s Work Programme. She says the job he had been found through the Work Programme had proved unsuitable and he fell back out of work, causing severe problems with his universal credit. Maggie tells the inquiry: “He had been told by all the authorities such as the Job Centre and Housing not to worry about his benefits and then he was very shocked to receive bills of £1,000 and £500 [from DWP and the local authority’s housing department].” She says her brother had been one of the first to be placed on the “chaotic” universal credit benefit system, and that his rights as a disabled person “had not been considered by the DWP and other authorities”. She says John had been hospitalised after trying to take his own life. He died a month later, in April this year. She says: “John was a very law abiding person and did everything that DWP, etc, told him to do but was seriously let down by this department. His benefits had been in chaos for several years but no one cared from the various departments that John and myself contacted.”
Why significant: Further evidence of the harm being caused by the new universal credit benefit system, on top of years of other reforms and cuts to social security.