This isn’t, nor has it ever been, about me. All I’ve ever wanted to do with this hunger strike is make a noise – to raise awareness of the terrible plight of our fellow citizens who find themselves plummeting into the maelstrom of debt caused by Universal Credit – the safety net that isn’t.
When I started out with this, applicants for Universal Credit were expected to wait 42 days for any money to come through.
These folk aren’t just like you and me – they ARE you and me. People who’ve been hit by some devastating event – a physical health problem – a mental health problem – sometimes both – folk who lose their job due to bad luck – find themselves floundering in a world of no services and no money.
A recent study by the British Medical Journal, you know, that loony left peddler of fake news, tells us that 120 thousand people have died prematurely in the UK since the start of austerity in 2010.
In a recent study by Mind, we’re told that 300 thousand people lost their jobs due to mental ill health last year – that’s a lot of people believing they’d signed up to a covenant with the government to ensure their ongoing wellbeing, only to watch the safety net being pulled away just when they need it.
Shelter tell us that there are now over 300 thousand homeless people in the UK – that’s the population of Newcastle!
Have we taken to the streets? Have we written to our MP’s in righteous indignation? Have we done anything to cry out for our most vulnerable at their most vulnerable?
We’ve heard that Universal Credit, instead of easing people through these difficult times, is actually compounding these difficulties.
We’ve had debates in parliament challenging the rollout of Universal Credit, where the government has lost horribly – and yet they continue to march inexorably on.
Yes, you’re absolutely right, in the recent budget, Philip Hammond made some concessions.
He told us that the 42 day wait would be reduced to 35 days and that people in greatest need would have access to money earlier. We’re told there are advance payments and/ or crisis payments (damned if I know what the difference is between the two) if people are found to be in sufficient need.
The thing is, these changes aren’t being fully implemented until spring next year.
In the meantime, people who are applying for Universal Credit TODAY who won’t get any money until the new year.
Because this system was rolled out with malicious policies built in, including a Draconian structure of sanctioning where folk can have their money stopped for anything between 3 days and 3 years for such heinous crimes as failing to attend a meeting or filling a form out incorrectly, folk are falling into spirals of debt from which they’ll never recover.
On Tuesday at the last parliamentary debate on Universal Credit, Frank Field had this story of devastation to tell the commons – that resulted in conservative MP, Heidi Allen openly weeping.
And still it continues.
People who’ve been in touch with me during the hunger strike tell me that they haven’t been informed about crisis payments – or they’ve been told that they can only claim 3 payments (which are half the amount of what they’d expect to receive when their Universal Credit comes through) over the 6 week (5 weeks in Spring next year) period.
When they’ve asked representatives at the department of work and pensions what they’re supposed to do for food, they’ve been told to go to food banks. And, let’s remember, folk can only get support from food banks 3 times a year.
Before this ridiculous system came into effect, we were told that some people were having to choose between heating and eating. Today, here in the UK, there are people who can afford to do neither.
I’ve been on hunger strike for just over 5 weeks, and I’m fucked. It’s effecting my sleep – I wake up because I’m hungry – I’m tired a lot of the time – and I feel the cold – hypothermia is a real threat.
I appreciate I’m privileged – I know this is coming to an end for me next Tuesday – I know I’ll be gently reintroducing myself to food on Wednesday.
I have heating. I can have baths to keep my core temperature up.
People applying for Universal Credit are haunted, crippled by the uncertainty surrounding the benefit – we’re told that over a quarter of applicants are waiting longer than 42 days…
I don’t have dependents relying on my Universal Credit coming through.
And still we do nothing.
What of the people who’ve suffered financially during phase one of this failing policy – no, sorry, it’s not failing, it’s doing exactly what it was set up to do.
Will they be compensated? Will the government pay off the eye wateringly high interest loans were the only option for many?
I can’t stress this enough. We live in a democracy – we can speak to our representatives – our local councillors – our MP’s – they’re infinitely contactable – by phone, email, letter or at their regular surgeries.
This is an apolitical issue. It’s a humanitarian crisis of our own making. We can change this.
Walk a Mile