On November 1st 2017 Chris Young began a 42 day hunger strike. Here he explains why:
I’d really rather not be doing this, but it’s my aim over those 6 weeks to help me focus on the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people who will be claiming Universal Credit.
This system that we’re told is being established to simplify the benefits system, currently has an inbuilt 42 day delay before any benefit is paid.
42 days with no money when your only crime has been losing your job.
We are arbitrarily punishing the most vulnerable people in society under the guise of austerity, under the illusion that this cruel to be kind, tough love approach will demonstrate that work pays.
If you do some research on this, you’ll see that the Government says that people can take out crisis loans. These are loans that people have to pay back from their meagre benefits once they’re awarded.
Many folk find themselves falling into the loving arms of loan sharks – legal or otherwise – with interest rates over 1000%
What would YOU do?
Over the past couple of decades, we’ve been drip fed the belief that these benefit scroungers aren’t like you. They’re flawed, often fraudsters, bone idle parasites.
They’re not like you.
Tragically though, these people ARE you.
Last year, 300 thousand people lost their jobs because of mental ill health.
That’s 300 thousand people, like you, like me, who are expected to wait for 6 weeks for any money.
These same people, no doubt, will have been told services are stretched – that they’ll have to wait at times over a year for a treatment that may be right for them – but that so often isn’t the right fit.
I only mention mental ill health because Mind recently published a paper where they’d collated that information. I have no doubt the same will apply for people with physical illness.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll read how the government will generously cut the cost of the 55p a minute Universal Credit Helpline by the end of the year – to what, I can only speculate.
We’re told that folk can ask to be called back – I suggest you try it -waiting times of 20 minutes before you get to speak to anyone are not uncommon.
That’s over £10 from people who don’t have any money – for whom every penny counts.
You could buy into the rhetoric that it’s wonderful that such need has spawned the growth of benevolent charities – food banks – that can provide people with help up to 3 times a year – giving us that Jacob Rees Mogg ‘Rather Uplifting’ feeling…
Or you could call it out for what it is, a system that is designed to make people suffer.
This is not a failing system. This is a system that’s doing exactly what it has been set up to do.
If you throw benefit sanctions into the equation, then you’ll realise that the system is anything but benevolent.
Between 2011 and 2015 this draconian regime increased the sanctions meted out on people with mental health problems by 668%.
This meant that nearly 20 thousand people with mental health problems had their benefits stopped for anything up to 3 years.
In the typical walk a mile way, I don’t want to be doing this alone. I’ll aim to talk to you, the people in the world of the social media, every day. I really want you to be part of this.
I realise I’m doing this from a position of privilege – I’m choosing to do this – although I have a severe and enduring mental health problem, I’m safe, cared for and loved. I can stop doing this whenever I want.
If you want to join me on any part of this fast – please do – tell me, if anything, what this means to you. If you’re in the position where you’ve had to apply for Universal Credit – please share your experience, anonymously if that works for you, using the hashtag
If you know anyone in the media, social or otherwise, get them involved.
Tell your MP – tell anyone – that you, like me, think enough is enough.
Until tomorrow then.
Walk a Mile