Furious campaigners have accused the government of “cruelty” amid revelations that terminally ill people are assigned “work coaches” under Universal Credit.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to defend the situation, described as “outrageous” and “beyond the pale” by end of life charity Marie Curie.
SNP MP Drew Hendry is now leading calls for changes to the way Universal Credit handles the claims of terminally ill people.
It comes as campaigners told HuffPost UK that people with terminal illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease and dementia face a raft of “thoughtless” regulations under Universal Credit.
Charities say they’ve seen those with just weeks to live:
- suffer delays in payments so lengthy some claimants have died before receiving their entitlements;
- forced to confront distressing details of their medical condition, despite many not wishing to do so;
- required to meet officials, dubbed “work coaches”, whose role is to “challenge” and “motivate” claimants into work;
- and undergo “deeply humiliating and degrading” assessments.
The conditions could end up affecting many thousands of people by the time Universal Credit completes its roll out in 2022, though the number of terminally ill claimants is “relatively low”.
Unlike under previous so-called “legacy” benefits, Universal Credit does not have a team dedicated to helping the terminally ill.
The DWP said it ensures terminally ill claimants are handled “as quickly and sensitively as possible” and that work coaches adapt to an individual’s circumstances.
But Elaine Donnelly of the Highlands Macmillan Citizens Advice Partnership in Scotland, told HuffPost that she has advised terminally ill cancer patients who have been made to undertake face-to-face visits with a work coach as part of the process of signing up for Universal Credit.
‘Everyone has a work coach’
“Anybody undergoing cancer treatment will still be invited in to speak to a work coach because of the way the system is set up,” Donnelly said. “Everyone has a work coach.”
“The onus is on the client to prove they are clinically ill,” she added. “Sometimes they send somebody out to the house to check an ID, but sometimes a work coach will go along with them.
“They tend to, once they know [a claimant is terminally ill], kinda back off a bit.”
The main job role of a work coach has been described by MPs as “to support claimants into work by challenging, motivating, providing personalised advice and using knowledge of local labour markets.”
“It is remarkable,” Donnelly said.
“It’s almost like the government have forgotten that many people claiming Universal Credit are unwell or terminally ill,” she added.
“We’ve not seen one claim go well from start to finish.”
Jill Fennell, whose partner, Mark, applied for Universal Credit after a terminal diagnosis,…