The sister of a man who survived a devastating stroke, but could not survive Tory welfare reforms, says his final days were spent in hunger and worrying about when he will receive his first Universal Credit payment.
Despite suffering a stroke in 2015, which left him with serious health problems, Chris Gold was told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find a job, after the department cruelly decided he was “fit for work” and not eligible for sickness benefits.
Speaking just days before his death, Chris told a reporter from ITV News: “I feel like I’ve been hung out to dry and not eating and that – it just makes you feel ill all the time.
“Yeah I want to keep the house because I’ve worked hard for thirty-eight years but it just seems unfair that I’ve worked all my life to buy a house and now I’m going to end up with nothing.”
His sister Heather spent a lot of time with her brother in the days and weeks leading up to his death and noticed the affects of the DWP’s decision, coupled with having to wait for Universal Credit, on his health and financial well-being.
While waiting for his first payment to come through, Chris had his home telephone line cut and fell behind on household bills.
Heather did everything she possibly could to help her brother financially, but left penniless and “in hunger” Chris had no choice but to accept food parcels from a local food bank.
Heather said: “He knew that he was going to lose everything. His house, where he brought the girls up. He knew.
“He couldn’t go to work – he was ill. Just looking at him he looked like a ghost on legs. He was so pale, no fat on him.”
Prior to his death, Chris had told his sister that he was hopeful of receiving a Universal Credit payment within a few days… but it didn’t happen.
Heather says the DWP should have done more to help Chris while he was waiting for his first payment.
“They should have been more in touch with him to help him with his head so that he could sleep and not worry about the next day and what was going to happen”, she said.
“They could have taken a lot of stress off him. We were brother and sister. We were also friends – the best friends.
“I can hold my head up high, I helped my brother. Benefits didn’t get there. I am angry.”
Thousands of poor and vulnerable benefit claimants have lost their lives, either directly or indirectly due to welfare cuts and changes, and yet the Government deny any correlation. Why?
— Welfare Weekly (@Welfare_Weekly) October 26, 2017
The tragic news comes as the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee urged the Government to reduce the minimum six-week waiting time for Universal Credit, highlighting growing evidence that it’s causing poverty and hardship and pushing vulnerable people into debt.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The baked in six-week wait is cruel. No one can give us any real justification for it.
“Such a long wait bears no relation to anyone’s working life and the terrible hardship it has been proven to cause actually makes it more difficult for people to find work.
“It is not too late for the Government to avert a Christmas disaster. They must act now.
“This urgent recommendation, of cutting that six-week wait, is the first step from the Committee in what I hope will be a series of reports on the Government’s ailing flagship welfare policy.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Our sympathy is with Mr Gold’s family at this difficult time.
“There is extra support for people when they need it, including home visits to help people with their claim, and advances for people who cannot wait for their first payment.”