Terminally ill people are being refused the financial help they so desperately need
For 31 years, Fred Williamson worked as an NHS paramedic. Now, at 62, he has terminal leukemia and needs help himself. But the benefits assessor who saw him scored him zero points – so he is not eligible for the Government ’s flagship Personal Independence Payment.
“I’ve worked hard all my life but I’m having to fight for help when I need it,” he says. “I know I’m going to die, I’m OK with that, but I don’t think I should be treated like this.”
Peter Grice, 58, a former lorry driver living in the same area of Staffordshire, who has prostate cancer was also turned down after being assessed. He had to fight through a tribunal for help. He is now facing a second tribunal after a repeat assessment.
Meanwhile, Diane Siegertsz, 57, from Stoke, who has twice had mouth cancer, was also knocked back for PIP despite the fact she has severe difficulties communicating and swallowing, and weighs just six stone.
Seriously ill patients like these are the very people Damian Green , newly appointed to the role of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, says he wants to help. His first welcome move as DWP boss has been to end the retesting of people with “severe” conditions for Employment Support Allowance, saying he wants to “sweep away any unnecessary stress and bureaucracy”.
But his reforms will do nothing to help any of these three cancer patients. Fred, Peter and Diane all get ESA but they have struggled to get PIP – a critical additional benefit. Without PIP, they don’t just lose financial support, their families also lose Carers’ Allowance, a disabled badge, power wheelchairs and motability, the scheme that helps them buy specialised cars. The result is that hundreds of vehicles are being taken from disabled people every week.
Charity Macmillan has previously criticised severe delays in PIP reaching cancer patients.
Benefit advisers in Stoke are now questioning the quality of Capita’s assessments as well as DWP decision making over cancer patients.
“We are seeing people with stage four lung cancer being awarded zero points,” says Duncan Walker, a Unite community adviser based in Stoke. They need eight to qualify for help and 12 to get enhanced help. These people are critically ill and some won’t live long enough to fight through the tribunal system”