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DWP appeal win for man forced to drink nothing but vegetable juice

Leicestershire Live logo Leicestershire Live 03/10/2022 Catherine Furze & Tom Kershaw
Errol has been trying to save money on his shopping and energy bills © Newcastle Chronicle Errol has been trying to save money on his shopping and energy bills

A former NHS worker from Gateshead lived on vegetable juice after his benefits were cut. Errol Livingstone, 57, has hit out at the Job Centre for docking his Universal Credit and whole arduous process has successfully won an appeal to get his money back

From his monthly payment of £319.84, he lost £11 per day for eight days - resulting in an overall loss of £88. He claimed this shortfall caused him great hardship at a time when the cost of living crisis was straining his budget even before the sanction, reports Chronicle Live.

Errol explained how he has, at times, lived on cartons of pure vegetable juice, fresh orange juice and fruit. He also detailed how he has taken food from his elderly mother, while often scouring the supermarket shelves for reduced items. The cuts to his benefits had been imposed due to his absence from attending a course about interview techniques, although he was under the impression he didn’t have to attend courtesy of his experience in recruitment.

After later being told he should have been there, Errol slammed the whole process: "The sanctions don't give you any right to reply or respond to the accusations, they are just imposed on you. I go on my Universal Credit journal every day and one day I noticed that the sanction had been imposed. There's no communication or no way you can defend yourself. It's an awful system.

READ MORE DWP benefits including Universal Credit 'cut next year in real terms'

"I appealed and then noticed some weeks later that there was an update that my appeal had been upheld and the money would be repaid. There was no apology or explanation.”

Errol had to get a short-term loan to tide him over, which he will have to pay back through Universal Credit. Although he owns his own property, Errol admitted to struggling to pay for all of his bills, including water, phone and building insurance.

Errol has argued that claiming Universal Credit is more stressful than his job as an NHS calls handler during the Covid-19 pandemic. He continued: "I feel the whole situation now is depressing - it's diabolical and it's managed poorly. The people at the top are not helping. It's like they have forgotten the people who are really vulnerable.

“Your desperation causes more stress and anxiety and it starts to affect the way you do everyday things. It gives you less incentive to participate with the rest of the community. I feel useless, I don't feel they are helping me at all. I feel they are making me worse."

A spokesman from the DWP said: "Sanctions are only used in a small number of cases. If a claimant disagrees with a decision to impose a sanction, they can ask for this to be reconsidered. Mr Livingstone’s appeal found in his favour and we have paid all benefits due to him. We continue to support him with his job search.”

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