Sunday, 4 June 2017

This Made Me Weep

On Friday, my friend Irene sent me this - it is a long piece, and it made me weep. 
I wept with sorrow for the family involved, and frustration at their treatment, and anger that such things are happening in Britain today. I usually make my Sunday posts about something related to my faith, and you might feel this is just a bit too political. But this week we have to cast our votes - and as a Christian, I cannot vote for a party which is changing our benefits system so that this sort of thing is happening more and more. I believe that Jesus calls us to care for the sick, the needy, the widow and the fatherless...and to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. 

Jill Fennell has written the following letter to the Guardian, Independent and Mirror plus BBC Radio and TV about the Kafkaesque nightmare that is Universal Credit. This is their story, which they have asked to be shared as widely as possible. Please share. It would mean so much to her and Mark to think that the horror they've gone through is causing a tidal wave of revulsion and calls for a more humane system.

"My much-loved partner Mark of 23 years is dying from mouth cancer. No cancer is good but this form is particularly cruel, restricting ability to eat and speak. He lives in a Universal Credit area and words totally fail me as to how barbaric and inhumane the system is. This is the reality for many of our most vulnerable people in society and Mark wanted to tell his story, to reveal the shocking truth that lies behind Theresa May’s “Strong and Stable” Social Care plans. Sadly his story is far from unique.
Mark’s story began when was diagnosed with terminal Cancer by a Macmillan Nurse at Guy’s Hospital. She told him to apply for fast track Employment Support Allowance (ESA) as he was not expected to live beyond 6 months. Due to the postcode lottery it turned out that he should have applied for Universal Credit (UC).
This took weeks to reveal itself and Mark had to live on very little money as he was self-employed but unable to work. Having struggled to complete 60 pages of the ESA form his efforts were wasted. Moreover ESA can be backdated to the date of diagnosis, but UC cannot. By the time Mark was able to start over with his UC claim his health had severely deteriorated and his concentration levels had become poor due to high levels of morphine medication. He sat next to me at my computer whilst I completed the form. In his condition, he was a bit befuddled with the incredible levels of detail required, but without completing all the mandatory boxes you can’t progress through the form. In short, the process is completely unsuitable for the physical and mental states of the people who have to use the system. In addition, you only have limited time to complete the form online before it shuts down and this requires you to start over.
The system then requires that the claimant is “verified” by Experian. According to Experian, Mark doesn’t exist, although he is very much still with me as I write this story. Several “helpline advisers” did not help, simply parroting the statement that they did not deal with online applications, although this was the number given on the UC website. Mark was asked to take his identity documents to a Job Centre, quite a trial for a man who had not been out or, indeed, off his bed for over a fortnight, stick thin and sleeping most of the time. I was told that, without verification, his claim would not go through. After verification of his terminal illness had finally taken place, I thought all was well and he had fast tracked his claim. How wrong I was. The following day, Mark was told that his claim could only be processed once he had completed a to-do task and that once again he needed to verify his ID online. His first payment, if his claim is accepted, will be on the 24th June, months after he needed the money to live his final months in some level of comfort and dignity. “It is shameful – the hallmark of an advanced democracy is in how it treats its vulnerable people and I have been let down by the system”
But, Mark’s story does not stop there. Mark subsequently found out that he has to have a “Fitness to Work” telephone interview. I called the Universal Credit Work Coach to ask if she was aware that he is terminally ill and has difficulty speaking as he has mouth cancer. She said she did but said it still had to be done. I cannot think of any words that express my contempt for her callous and emotionally bankrupt approach to Mark’s predicament. I have spoken with others about Mark’s experience and it seems that this is quite the norm in our “civilised society”.
Theresa May’s Government are presently rolling out Universal Credit across the UK. God help those that are desperately ill with no one to look after and support them through this Kafkaesque nightmare of a system which makes it virtually impossible for vulnerable people to live their final days without misery. If Mark was on his own, he would be dying in utter desperation and starving to death in his flat as food banks don’t do home delivery.
“Universal Credit is universally inhumane. An animal receives better treatment than humans under Theresa May’s Strong and Stable Care System”

I will be writing to all the forthcoming General Election candidates for my constituency including the former Conservative incumbent, Rehman Chishti, about this shameful situation in the hope that others may receive better treatment than Mark."
If you pray, then remember Mark and Jill in your prayers. 
And remember them when you vote on Thursday. 


  1. A truly depressing story, absolutely disgusting.

  2. That's awful! I'm certainly not voting for the Conservatives- never have done, never will do!

  3. An appalling story. Even worse for those who have no online access and have to use public libraries.

  4. I have shared the story on FB - linking to your blog. I hope that was okay!

  5. It is no better, over here; probably worse, in fact. There are so many without any insurance coverage and now they want to take away even the little we have.

  6. The whole Care situation is appalling. They are not getting our vote this time.

  7. Having watched I,Daniel this week, I weep for people affected by our social care system.


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