Monday, November 18, 2019
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Universal Credit: Mentally ill man asked how often he changes his underwear

"They asked me how many times a week I changed my underwear."

A 35-year-old benefit claimant claims he was asked how often he changes his underwear during a humiliating face-to-face ‘fit for work’ assessment.

The unnamed individual is said to suffer from mental health problems which affect his ability to hold down a job.

He was told to attend a ‘Work Capability Assessment’ as part of a new claim for Universal Credit, despite being told by a doctor that he was unfit for work because of his poor mental state.

Speaking to Lincolnshire Live, he said that he had worked as a chef since leaving school, but the long hours and resulting stress meant he was unable to continue working and needed time off to recover.

“I was working full time and had been for a long while”, he said.

“I was working ridiculous hours, in a very stressful job. I would leave for work at 7am and not come back home until 1am.

“I started to suffer quite badly with stress and anxiety and began to have panic attacks quite regularly.

“My only option, for my mental and physical health, was to take time off work and go onto Universal Credit.”

He alleges that even his work coach at the time believed he was too unwell to work, but was still made to attend a work capability assessment.

“During the assessment, some of the questions they asked me were absurd”, he said.

“They asked me how many times a week I changed my underwear.

“They asked me things like whether I knew how to use a phone and if I did – what did I use it for.”

From that moment he knew that the outcome of the assessment would not be favourable.

He said: “Lo and behold, it came back that I was fit to work and I was forced to pick up a chef’s job for 20 hours.

“But because of the industry, my employers kept pushing for more and more hours and I slowly edged back up to 30.

“Because I hadn’t been given the time to deal with my poor mental health I ended up having another breakdown.

“A few days later, I tried to rearrange my appointment with the job centre as I so overwhelmed with anxiety and couldn’t leave the house.

“I got a call from my work coach who was incredibly rude and started immediately threatening me with sanctions if I didn’t turn up.

“She told me that the DWP would not accept any more sick notes from my doctor because the DWP have deemed me fit to work.”

He must now continue looking for full-time employment, regardless of his mental state.

“My benefits are capped at £748 a month”, he said.

“The maximum allowance you get for rent is £430. My rent is £575 a month, then on top of that I have my electric, gas, water, council [tax], TV licence and food.

“I constantly had to use the money I would for food to top up my rent.”

“It’s a broken system”, he concluded.

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