A single mum whose teenage son is battling cancer says the £20 Universal Credit cut is “the difference between taking your child to hospital and paying the bills”.
Suzie Mead has slammed Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap the uplift on Wednesday, which will hit millions of families already struggling with rising living costs.
The 36-year-old was devastated to find a tumour the size of a clementine on her son’s testicle at the start of his summer holiday.
The mum-of-one rushed 14-year-old Ieuan Tennyson to the GP, where they were referred to a specialist before being sent to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff.
The tumour was removed and Suzie, from South Wales, tried to convince herself it wasn’t anything to worry about.
But in September she was told the lump was cancerous and that Ieaun would have to undergo nine months of chemotherapy for rhabdomyosarcoma.
Suzie now fears being constantly worried as she faces the added financial strain that will result from the planned benefit cut and her son’s hospital treatment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the cut to the £20-a-week uplift saying there is “no alternative”, a phrase used by former Tory leader Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980s.
But Suzie, who relies on benefits as she can’t work more than six hours a week due to her depression and anxiety, hit back saying “there is always an alternative”.
“Look at the money plowed into running the government. The expenses of the politicians….
“He lives in his own little bubble and I doubt he even knows how much a loaf of bread costs.
“It’s easy to take money away from the people that don’t have it to justify the people that do have it.
“It’s not a government for the people, it’s a government for the wealthy
“I have no alternative but to struggle and to decide what bills are being paid.”
She said the Tories need a ‘reality check’ and condemned the plan to take money away from people already struggling.
“I would ask them if they knew what it was like to struggle, if they have ever felt the shame you feel visiting a food bank, if they had to decide between taking there child to the hospital or paying the bills,” she said.
“I don’t any of our government have been in that situation and you can tell that by them trying to take this money back from the people that are already struggling. They need a reality check.”
Recounting the terrifying moment she discovered the tumour, Suzie told the Mirror: “I brushed it off at first and thought at the most he would need a cream or something and was told to come back if it gets worse.
“The more tests and appointments he had, the more I thought it was something to start worrying about.
“I convinced myself it would not be cancer and he would be back in school soon being a normal teen.
“I was devastated when the doctor said the lump was a cancerous tumour and he would need chemo. He might be 14 but he’s still my baby.”
Suzie said she is already back on antidepressants as she struggles to cope with seeing her son looking so poorly on chemo.
Her mental health issues, as well as her needing to take care of Leaun, have also meant she is currently signed off work as sick.
The extra £20-a-week was introduced as an uplift at the start of the pandemic to help benefit claimants through lockdown but is due to be scrapped on Wednesday October 6.
The decision has had widespread backlash, with Citizens Advice warning two thirds of working claimants say they’ll face hardship, be unable to pay bills or have to sell their belongings.
One in four working claimants, or 600,000 people, are concerned they may not even be able to afford basics such as food or toiletries due to the impact of the cut, which compounds rising fuel and living costs.
But Mr Johnson still “wrongly pressed ahead with the biggest ever overnight cut to social security”, J oseph Rowntree Foundation’s Rebecca McDonald said.
The senior economist said millions will be concerned about what she said equals to a “£1,040-a-year-cut”.
“The Prime Minister urgently needs to keep the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit,” she told the Mirror. “Rising child poverty, soaring demand for food banks, people worrying about keeping their homes and covering the cost of bills, flies in the face of uniting and levelling up our country.”
Suzie, who has been on Universal Credit since her marriage broke down about two years ago, said the drop “will push me into financial difficulties”, before she added: “It’s the difference between taking your child to hospital and paying the bills.
But she went on: “If it comes to it, getting him in [to hospital] because he’s poorly or has his chemo will always win over bills and even food. I will go to a food bank if I need to.”
The mum-of-one, who dreams to become a teacher one day, praised her “hero” son for his courage.
“Most adults would break going through what he’s been through and he does it each day with a smile.”
The Work and Pensions Department’s spokesperson said in a statement to the Mirror: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”