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MP slams ‘humiliating’ Universal Credit checks for terminally ill

Drew Hendry said he had joined agencies, charities and the local council in warning the Government about “systemic failings” in Universal Credit.

Terminally ill people should stop being put through “humiliating and degrading” assessments in order to claim Universal Credit, an SNP MP has told the Commons.

Drew Hendry criticised the “cruel requirement” for Universal Credit claimants to self certify even if they do not want doctors to tell them the full scale of their condition.

During an adjournment debate he also highlighted the wait that terminally ill people have to go through before claims are paid, adding that many die before they receive any money.

Mr Hendry’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency has piloted the flagship welfare reform for more than four years.

Mr Hendry said he had joined agencies, charities and the local council in warning the Government about “systemic failings” in Universal Credit.

He said: “If the Chancellor is sincere in what he said during the Budget that he wanted the civilised and tolerant place that cares for the vulnerable he will take on board the representations that I’m making on behalf of those agencies and the terminally ill tonight.”

Mr Hendry focused on one constituent, John, a terminally ill man who had his benefits stopped after stating he could walk 50 yards.

He said: “When asked if he could walk 50 yards he said no, so he was asked again if he could do it and asked if it would be possible to do it even if it took a long time.

“When again he said no, he was asked if it was an emergency and he absolutely had to walk 50 yards could he do it, at which point he felt so pressurised he said yes.

“The overview of the assessment said he could reasonably walk 50 yards, the assessment process is deeply humiliating and degrading, putting claimants in a position were they often feel bad about not being able to carry out certain tasks.”

Mr Hendry told MPs about a recent summit in his constituency on Universal Credit, which he says included “heart-breaking” stories of people attempting to claim, and left everyone in the room feeling “emotionally exhausted”.

The MP called for an end to the wait for cancer patients to receive their claims, and the removal of the self-certification requirements.

Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds said Universal Credit had a process in place to “support claimants when they have been diagnosed as terminally ill and to make sure that additional support is provided as quickly as possible”.

He said he was “aware” of concerns raised about the process of notifying DWP about a claimant’s terminal illness.

“However, we don’t need to change the consent rules in Universal Credit to support these claimants – we can already accept information directly from claimant representatives, such as claimant appointees and third party organisations representing the claimant.

“However, we are also aware that there are instances where this is not happening as intended in some circumstances and we are working hard to make sure that the system does work properly.”

Mr Hinds added: “Things can go wrong and when they do I am sorry for that.”

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