Universal Credit and Terminal Illness

Part of Petition - Royal Bank of Scotland Closure in Nairn, Grantown and Aviemore – in the House of Commons at 8:32 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 8:32 pm, 9th May 2018

When I was elected in 2015, I had an early meeting with the Macmillan citizens advice bureau. I had lots of dealings with the citizens advice bureau before being elected and know that it dealt with hundreds of cases, some of which I brought to it as the then leader of the council. It dealt with people with chaotic lives—desperate people in difficult conditions—and it is fair to say that its staff were battle-hardened professionals helping people. I think it is very telling that, when they told me about the struggles of the terminally ill when they transfer to universal credit, it was the first time that I had ever seen them in tears.

Imagine the moment that a person hears from their doctor that they are terminally ill. In that instant, nothing for them or their families will ever be the same again. It is one fateful moment that changes everything—their entire world. Suddenly, priorities shift and they become acutely aware of every second as it passes. Terminal illness deeply affects families in our communities and the very least that they should expect, when asking for help from a Government, is that support is prompt and sympathetic to their situation. The trouble is that that is not what they are getting. It is not even close to that.

As I mentioned, my constituency was one of the first to experience universal credit. As the then leader of the Highland Council, I highlighted many issues that we experienced with the pilot. As a local authority, we fed back the countless issues that we encountered.

All those concerns were ignored in the name of agile development and the Government recklessly proceeded to live service, causing unprecedented poverty to hundreds of single people in my constituency. We begged for mercy. We asked, we cajoled, we demanded that something be done, but, despite it all, we were ignored.

As I said, I was elected to this place in 2015, when the Government were pressing ahead with the roll-out of full service, leaving families, the disabled, single parents and children for months without money, and for no other reason than they had failed to listen and failed to act, and so failed the very people they were supposed to serve.