Hundreds die every month after being told to find work

SNP MP condemns “devastating consequences” of Tory welfare policies.

Photo credit: jovike via photopin cc

Hundreds of vulnerable people across the UK are dying every month after being told to start preparing for work, according to new statistics which of been condemned as “damning evidence” of the impact of Tory welfare policies.

Figures uncovered through freedom of information laws reveal 10,950 people died between March 2014 to February 2017 after being placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The Daily Record reports that this includes up to 1000 Scots, which equates to around 36 ESA WRAG deaths every month. While across the UK, it equates to around 300 deaths per month over three years.

ESA WRAG if for sick and disabled people who assessors believe may be capable of moving into work with the right support, but campaigners and opponents of the system claim some people are being placed in the group when they should be in the higher Support Group.

Their claims are supported by official statistics that show 70% of claimants successfully overturn ESA decisions on appeal, with many of these appeals lodged by sick and disabled people who believe they should be in the ESA Support Group.

Claimants placed in this group are not required to begin looking for work, unless they choose to, and are not subject to many of the strict requirements placed on those in the ESA WRAG.

Campaigners protest against Tory welfare policies. Photo: Getty Images.

Campaigners protest against Tory welfare policies. Photo: Getty Images.

Danielle Rowley, Labour MP for Midlothian, said: “Across Scotland, thousands of people are suffering from years of Tory cuts to lifeline benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance. “Thousands of people have been put through the stress and indignity of unnecessary re-assessments, with more than 10,000 people dying whilst trying to prove they were ‘not fit for work’.”

SNP MSP Bob Doris added: “This is more damning evidence of the devastating consequences that callous Tory welfare policies are having on disabled people in Scotland. “It is imperative that time is called on the Work Capability Assessment. It’s clear the Tories shameful and disastrous welfare policies are making life even more difficult for thousands of people, as well as pushing people into debt and crisis.

“It’s time the UK Government hand over all the powers over welfare to the people of Scotland so we can build a social security system based on dignity and fairness – which the people of Scotland demand and deserve.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “ESA is an income replacement benefit awarded to people who have a health condition or disability, which will of course include those people with the most serious illnesses.

“The department does not hold information on the reason for death of a claimant, therefore it would be inaccurate to assume any causal effect from these figures between the benefit and the number of people who have sadly died.”



Former watchdog chief labels disabled benefits process a ‘hostile environment’

Andrew McDonald
 Andrew McDonald says the PIP process works against the interests of the disabled.

A former top civil servant has criticised the disability benefits assessment system as a “hostile environment” after being told he was ineligible for support despite having Parkinson’s and terminal prostate cancer.

Andrew McDonald, 56, who ran the parliamentary body overseeing MPs expenses before retiring on health grounds, had his benefits stopped after assessors decided he was no longer ill enough to qualify for personal independence payment (PIP).

McDonald described the assessment process undergone by hundreds of thousands of chronically ill and disabled people each year as crude, unprofessional and Kafka-esque in its complexity.

“I was shocked by the way this was being administered against the interests of some of the most disadvantaged people in the country,” he said. “PIP is beset by profound administrative failures which work to the disadvantage of disabled people.

“My personal interactions with the [PIP] process were perfectly pleasant; but the system as a whole does create the impression of it being a hostile environment and one where two of the foes are complexity and the sense that it is not a level playing field [for claimants]”.

McDonald, who chairs the disability charity Scope, said: “I thought this was a system to give people a hand up; in practice they encounter a sleight of hand that is completely out of kilter with the best traditions of British public service in which I was not only raised but worked for most of my career.”


He called on the government to look afresh at the entire PIP process, which has been dogged by controversy since it was introduced in 2014 as a way of cutting the disability benefits bill. The controversial assessments are carried out by private contractors Atos and Capita.

Earlier this year, a cross-party committee of MPs concluded that the PIP process was error-strewn and insensitive, after hearing evidence of poor practice from more than 4,000 claimants. The government responded that it was working to improve the system.

PIP is intended to help with the additional costs of living with disability, estimated at £570 a month. It is not means tested or related to employment status and is typically used to meet special transport needs or health-related heating or food bills.

McDonald was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, in 2007. Three years later, he discovered he had prostate cancer and was subsequently told by doctors it was incurable. He is shortly to undergo brain surgery in attempts to mitigate some of the worst effects.

He retired in 2014 as the chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and qualified for PIP the following year, a decision which was reaffirmed at review in 2017. Each time, assessors awarded him 11 points, comfortably over the eight point threshold for lower-level PIP support, which amounted in his case to about £3,000 a year.

At his third review assessment in March, however, he was awarded two points – a decision which suggested his health was improving. “I was flabbergasted: I had two progressively degenerative conditions and my Parkinson’s had become worse since the turn of the year,” said McDonald. “It’s now described by my neurologist as ‘very severe’.”

The assessor – an occupational therapist – had little understanding of Parkinson’s, he said. “She did a common test of twisting the forearm at the elbow. She concluded from this I have full power in my upper limbs. It’s nonsense. Daily, it is a nuisance to me that I am weak as a kitten in my upper body. ”

The system failed to account for the way Parkinson’s fluctuates dramatically, through the day and over time, he said. “I got dressed today without too much trouble, though my cufflinks eluded me. Two days ago, it took me 90 minutes because of the tremor in my hands, my lack of strength. Putting on jackets is a nightmare.

“That sort of variation from day to day could be captured in the system but, in practice, the people in the system I was working with were not capturing it.”

He asked the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to review the decision but it upheld it on the grounds that, although it was “surprising”, the assessment showed his condition had improved and it was up to him to supply evidence to prove that it had not. The DWP was effectively suggesting the loss of his benefit was his own fault, he said.

A DWP spokesperson said it monitored the quality of the PIP process to ensure it worked well for everyone. “We constantly seek to improve the quality of PIP assessments. We have undertaken two independent reviews of PIP and most recently announced that we will pilot video recording of assessments, to help increase people’s trust in the assessment process.

McDonald’s benefits were stopped in April and he lodged a tribunal appeal against the decision within weeks. Four months on, he is still awaiting a date for a hearing.

Although the government has promised that people with long-term degenerative diseases should no longer be given annual PIP assessments, this does not apply to claimants, such as McDonald, who received lower-level awards.

He had been able to manage financially without PIP, he said, but he was aware not everyone could. “If you are on a low income the sudden decision to stop PIP is a really serious blow – and it’s a blow from a bewildering system.”


Cancer-stricken father, 56, ruled ‘fit to work’ because he could make a cup of tea died

Cancer-stricken father, 56, ruled ‘fit to work’ because he could make a cup of tea died with just £8 in his bank account. He had intended to appeal the ‘fit to work’ ruling in July but had to postpone because he was too ill.

Joseph MacMillan – pictured with his grandson Elliot before he had his nose amputated (Photo: Joe MacMillan)

The son of a man who died with just £8 in his bank account after his disability benefits were stopped five months before says “the state killed” his father.Joseph MacMillan – who had multiple long-term health problems and had his nose amputated due to cancer – died after falling into a diabetic coma and having a heart attack in August, just days before he planned to appeal the decision.

The 56-year-old had been successfully claiming until an assessor carried out a home visit and deemed him fit to work, and his Personal Independence Payment was stopped.

Joseph – who as well as heart problems and diabetes suffered with pancreatitis, anxiety and depression – was denied the income on the grounds that he could use stairs and make a cup of tea, his family said.

The 56-year-old – shown here when younger – had his Personal Independence Payment benefits stopped in March (Photo: Joe MacMillan)
The 56-year-old – shown here when younger – had his Personal Independence Payment benefits stopped in March (Photo: Joe MacMillan)

I believe the stress of living with no money finished him off. The state killed him

Joe MacMillan

Son Joe, who works as a chef, said he blamed the Government’s austerity measures.

He told i: “My father was ill and he would have died eventually, but I believe the stress of living with no money finished him off. The state killed him.”

‘Skin and bones’

Joe, 39, from Glasgow, said his father had become ‘skin and bones’ and was obviously not a well man. “He was like a concentration camp victim, there was nothing to him,” he said.

He said Joseph’s cancer – diagnosed two years ago – had taken a severe toll on his mental health. “He was very self-conscious, embarrassed and depressed about losing his nose. He didn’t leave the house after that.”

His father was on “tonnes” of medication which gave him side-effects including loss of appetite, drowsiness, lethargy, and insomnia, he explained.

He was like a concentration camp victim, there was nothing to him

Joe MacMillan

“He was clearly frail and in no state to work,” said Joe. “Just because you can make a cup of doesn’t mean you can go and do an eight-hour shift at work.”

He believes a physiotherapist carried out the assessment. “In my opinion a physio is not qualified enough to assess all my father’s health problems, it should have been a nurse.”

The hardest hit by austerity have been the most vulnerable in society [fact check]

Dad was ‘proud’

The cancellation of his benefits in March cost Joseph £550 a month. He had intended to appeal in July but had to postpone because he was too ill to attend.

In his final months, he was forced to rely financially on his 58-year-old sister, Roseanna Hill who he lived with in Dennistoun.

“The pair of them survived on her meagre carer’s allowance,” said Joe. “My aunt was very ill too and wasn’t really able to look after him and she died three days after my father from a stroke.”

He explained he spoke to Joseph twice a week on the phone and offered him help but he was “too proud” to accept it.

Joseph hadn't wanted his son (pictured here) to bring round grandson Elliot because of his nose amputation (Photo: Joe MacMillan)
Joseph hadn’t wanted his son (pictured here) to bring round grandson Elliot because of his nose amputation 

“I didn’t get to see my dad as much as I wanted,” he said. “As well as being busy with work and looking after my three-year-old, Dad didn’t want me to come round and for my son Elliot to see him the way he was.

“He was given a nose prosthetic but it wasn’t very good and he just became a shell of the man he once was.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has been approached for comment.


WCA tragedy: woman’s mum vows to fight on for justice

Jodey Whiting with her nine children

A disabled woman whose daughter took her own life after being wrongly found “fit for work” has vowed to continue her fight for justice, despite the prime minister’s office brushing off her request for a meeting.

Joy Dove wrote in July to ask for a meeting with Theresa May to discuss the tragic death of her daughter Jodey Whiting in February 2017, and the thousands of other disabled victims of the government’s “wrong decisions”.

But the prime minister’s correspondence team dismissed her letter and replied just days later to say that a meeting would not be possible because of “the tremendous pressures of her diary”. The letter failed to even mention Jodey Whiting or her death or express any condolences. Her mother said the response from Number 10 had been “inadequate”.

She said: “She didn’t even acknowledge anything I said. Obviously, she’s not bothered. They are just ignoring it all, to a point where there should be an uprising. “I want them to admit that they were wrong and that she would still be alive [if they had not made their mistakes].”

She is continuing with her campaign for justice, which includes an online petition calling for changes to the law. Her daughter took her own life on 21 February 2017, after being told by a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-maker that she had been found fit for work. She had missed a work capability assessment (WCA) appointment the previous month because she was in hospital being treated for a brain cyst.

A letter telling her about the WCA appointment had been waiting for her at home, unopened. When DWP asked why she had not attended the WCA, she wrote back with evidence, explaining that she had been in hospital being treated for pneumonia and a cyst on her brain. Instead of arranging another WCA, she was found fit for work, and when she asked for the decision to be reconsidered, it was rubber-stamped instead by another DWP decision-maker.

Dove said that her daughter, who had nine grown-up children and six grand-children and was a “lovely, caring, thoughtful” person, had been taking 23 tablets a day, for conditions including scoliosis and bipolar disorder, and had been taking morphine twice daily. She said she was clearly not well enough to work.

Whiting (pictured with her children when they were younger) was told she would receive her last fortnight’s employment and support allowance (ESA) payment on 17 February. She visited Citizens Advice, and an advisor wrote to DWP on 15 February 2017 to ask for another WCA appointment, but she took her own life six days later, just four days after her final ESA payment.

Her body was found by her mother and two of her children. Dove said: “She was on 23 tablets a day, but two decision-makers decided without even seeing her face that she was fit for work. “That’s all wrong. She had all the evidence. It’s all wrong. It’s horrible.”

The decision to find her fit for work was overturned by DWP within a couple of weeks of her death.

Asked by Disability News Service why there had been no mention of Jodey Whiting and the circumstances of her death in the letter, and why no condolences were expressed, and whether this suggested the prime minister did not care about her death, a Number 10 spokesman refused to comment.


The DWP just whitewashed the most damning report in its history

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has just whitewashed a damning report from the UN; one that accused it of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. Disabled people have waited a year for a response to the report. But in it, the DWP effectively poured scorn on the UN’s findings.



The DWP: creating a “human catastrophe”

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has been investigating the UK government for several years. This culminated in a 2016 report which accused it and the DWP of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. Then in August last year the UNCRPD issued a further analysis; this included its chair accusing the government of creating a “human catastrophe” for disabled people. Because the government has signed up to the UNCRPD convention, it has to respond.

After a year, it finally has.

The DWP was responding to UN criticisms in three areas of the UNCRPD; the rights to:

  • Live independently and be included in the community – Article 19.
  • Work and employment – Article 27.
  • An adequate standard of living and social protection – Article 28.

The UN’s accusations: Article 19; “the right to live independently and be included in the community”

The UN accused the DWP and government of:

  1. Failing to recognise Article 19 in law as a human right, to promote “individual autonomy, control and choice”.
  2. Implementing “policies and measures” that negatively affected disabled people’s right to Article 19.
  3. Absolving itself of its responsibilities under Article 19, giving them to the devolved nations and local councils instead; but without providing “appropriate and earmarked budget allocation”.
  4. Allowing the institutionalisation of disabled people to continue.
  5. Overseeing a “lack of support services and accessible public facilities” for disabled people.

It made five recommendations.

The DWP response to accusations under Article 19

In response to these accusations and recommendations, the DWP said that, among other things (in the order above):

  1. It has recognised Article 19 under the Care Act 2014.
  2. It has prepared a Green Paper on reforming social care; that the Department for Health and Social Care works with disabled people on policy; that after it closed the Independent Living Fund it transferred responsibility to local authorities, and that it monitored their work.
  3. It increased social care funding for local authorities; that it’s looking at how to fund supported housing; that it’s made grants available for disabled people and landlords to adapt homes.
  4. Put measures in place to reduce institutionalisation, including the Transforming Care Programme and the Building the Right Support initiative.
  5. Ensured it considers the needs of disabled people when allocating funding.

The reality for disabled people under Article 19

But the reality for disabled people doesn’t tally with the DWP’s claims.

  1. Campaigners believe councils are not fulfilling their duties under the Care Act, and that it doesn’t fully meet with Article 19.
  2. When the DWP shut the Independent Living Fund, some councils cut disabled people’s support; historically some cut their funding by between 50% and 68%.
  3. On Wednesday 5 September the government again delayed the publication of the Green Paper on reforming social care.
  4. Social care funding fell by £6bn between 2010/11 and 2017/18. The government has only just increased it.
  5. De-institutionalisation measures are failing, with the number of learning disabled people living in hospitals actually rising.

Anecdotally, there are repeated horror stories of people being trapped in their own homes, not getting the support they need and even dying due to care and support failings.

The UN’s accusations: Article 27; the right to “work and employment”

The UN accused the DWP and government of:

  1. Overseeing a “persistent employment… and pay gap” for disabled people.
  2. Taking “insufficient affirmative action” to make sure disabled people have the same chance of work as non-disabled people.
  3. Letting the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) be “a functional evaluation of skills and capabilities”, rather than recognising that it’s society which places barriers on disabled people’s ability to work (the “social model of disability”).

It made five recommendations.

The DWP response to accusations under Article 27

Again, in response, the DWP said:

  1. It has got 600,000 more disabled people into work; that it’s introduced numerous work-related schemes linked to the benefits system; that it has the Disability Confident employer recognition scheme, and is investing millions.
  2. It has ensured that the Equality Act protects disabled people getting into employment, and also in the workplace.
  3. It has modelled the WCA to make sure it “aligns” with the social model of disability; that it is ‘continuing’ to ‘improve’ it; that it doesn’t give sanctions out “lightly” and that it protects “vulnerable” claimants.

The reality for disabled people under Article 27

But once again, the reality does not match the DWP’s claims.

  1. The disability employment gap – the difference in the employment rate for disabled and non-disabled people – has been stuck at around 30% for the past decade. The Disability Confident scheme has been repeatedly shown to be failing.
  2. A House of Lords report said “much more needs to be done” than just the Equality Act.
  3. The WCA is notorious and has faced a barrage of criticism from politicians and disabled people alike. Think tanks and universities have repeatedlycriticised the sanctions regime.

It is debatable whether the DWP’s ‘600,000 more disabled people in work’ claim actually holds water; as it may have forced many of these people into work due to stopping their benefits. For example, since April 2013 the DWP has denied around 381,000 people the Personal Independence Payment (PIP); people who used to get its predecessor, Disability Living Allowance. What has happened to these people is unclear. But some of them may have had to take up work to cover the shortfall in money.

What’s more, between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after a WCA said they were fit-for-work.

The UN accusations: Article 28; the right to an “adequate standard of living and social protection”

The UN accused the DWP and government of:

  1. Putting in “austerity measures” which have caused “severe economic constraints” for disabled people. These include “increased reliance on food banks”.
  2. The negative impact of DWP benefit cuts on the “standard of living” for disabled people.
  3. Making an effective postcode lottery for social care; the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP); this reduced the number of claimants of disability benefits; negatively impacting on people’s standard of living
  4. Overseeing a “detrimental impact” on disabled people because of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) conditionality and sanctions.

It made five recommendations.

The DWP response to accusations under Article 28

Once more, in response the DWP said it has:

  1. Budgeted the highest ever amount (£54bn) in 2018/19 on “benefits to support those with… disabilities”. It also detailed how ESA, PIP and Universal Credit support and protect disabled people.
  2. Done “cumulative analysis” on how policies affect households. But it admitted it had not done this for welfare reform as it claims it “cannot be reliably modelled”.
  3. Made sure PIP goes to those who need it most; that it helps disabled people “lead full, active and independent lives” and that it was “constantly” improving PIP.
  4. Increased the social care budget.
  5. Made sure sanctions are “clear, fair and effective”; emphasised sanctions only apply to ESA claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG); that it has put financial ‘safeguards’ in place for sanctioned claimants and maintained that the system is “important” and “right”.

The reality for disabled people under Article 28

But yet again, the reality is hugely different from the DWP’s claims.

  1. The £54bn spending claim has been widely debunked as it includes other benefits not specific to disabled people. For example, the true figure for 2017/18 was £39bn; DWP minister Sarah Newton claimed it was over £50bn. Also, a Council of Europe committee said the DWP had breached its rules, noting the levels of benefits like ESA were “manifestly inadequate” and were causing poverty.
  2. A thinktank, Policy in Practice, did a cumulative impact assessment on welfare reform; you can read it here. It found that from a baseline amount in November 2016, by 2020 households hit by welfare reforms would be on average £40.62 a week worse off.
  3. PIP has seen 381,000 people who used to get Disability Living Allowance (DLA) denied this new benefit. Also, claimant’s winning their tribunals against DWP PIP denials hit 71% in the first quarter of 2018.
  4. As previously discussed, the social care budget fell by £6bn between 2010/11 and 2017/18.
  5. Universal Credit claimants whom the DWP sanctions are winning their tribunal appeals in 84% of cases.

The true cost of the DWP

And behind the facts, the reality of life for disabled people in the UK is even starker. For example, the number of disabled people in relative poverty has actually risensince 2010.

Also, a Freedom of Information request (FOI) revealed that, between 2014 and 2017, 100 people a day on ESA had been dying under the watch of the DWP. Moreover, 10 people in the WRAG area of ESA were dying a day – and these are the people the DWP says are ready to move towards work.

But most horrendously, a university study found that an additional 590 cases of people taking their own lives were linked to the WCA.

From the DWP’s response to the UN, you’d think life in the UK for disabled people was tranquil. But the reality for millions is a living nightmare; one at the hands of the very government department that’s supposed to support them.

Read the full UNCRPD report:

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Cancer-suffering dad dies with just £8 after DWP stop benefits ruling him ‘fit to work’

Joseph MacMillian died just 15 days before his appeal against having his personal independence payment cut.

A dad suffering from cancer died destitute with just £8 in his bank account because heartless benefits officials ruled he was fit for work. Son Joe, 32, had no idea just how poor Joseph MacMillan was but was convinced he was not fit for work due to his illness.

He said: “He was like a concentration camp victim. He was just skin and bones. “My dad was on that benefit because he was clearly unable to work and then in March they took it away and he never received it since. He was ­obviously not well enough to work because he died.”

Joseph had to have his nose amputated because of the disease. He also suffered from diabetes, pancreatitis, a heart condition and anxiety and depression linked to his cancer.

His death on August 9 came 15 days before his appeal against having his personal independence payment cut. He had to postpone an earlier appeal in July because he was too ill to attend. But he had been without PIP since March, costing him around £550 a month.

Joe MacMillan says his dad unnecessarily died destitute 

Joe, a chef, said: “He was on a benefit called PIP but the Tory Government are trying to get people off benefits so he had to go to an ­assessment. “As far as I am aware it is not even a nurse who does some of these things. It is a physiotherapist.

“My dad was quite confused and wouldn’t admit to being as ill as he was. “He could get up and down the stairs and make a cup of tea and ­apparently that fitted the criteria for him not ­qualifying for PIP.”

Without cash Joseph relied on charity from his big sister Roseanne Hill, 58. The siblings shared a house in Dennistoun, Glasgow. Caring for his son Elliott, three, and holding down a full-time job meant Joe didn’t see his dad as often as he would have liked and while he spoke to him on the phone twice a week he had no idea how poor he actually was.

Joe added: “He died destitute and it was all so unnecessary.” A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Mr MacMillan at this difficult time.”

He added: “Assessments for PIP eligibility are not to do with an individual’s ability to work or not but on what impact their medical condition or disability has on their day-to-day lives.”


Man with rare brain tumour denied PIP & told ‘if you can walk you’re OK’

Father-of-two, 28, with rare brain tumour denied benefits and told ‘if you can walk in here you’re ok’. Martie Birchall’s growth on his brain stem has doubled in size in seven years – yet he’s not entitled to disability payment.


A father-of-two who suffers with a rare brain tumour was told “if you can walk in here you’re ok” when he went for an assessment to get disability benefits. Martie Birchall has been told the growth has doubled in size since he was diagnosed seven years ago at the age of 21.

He works as a cleaner to support his family but has found his symptoms are getting increasingly worse – and he now struggles with regular migraines, dizziness and memory problems and relies on his fiancée Anissa for help with daily tasks.

But the 28-year-old, from Saint Austell in Cornwall, has been denied Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit that helps with the extra costs of living with a long-term health condition or disability.

Anissa Alane, 24, who is a carer in the community and has two children, Lily, 5, and Archie, 2, with Martie, said her partner is due to start chemotherapy soon and the family will struggle with costs such as hospital parking.

The PIP System Is Fundamentally Flawed. Having People Waiting Over A Year For Their Appeals To Be Heard Is Not Just Unfair – It’s Damaging!

The 28-year-old with fiancée Anissa Alane and their children Lily and Archie (Photo: Anissa Alane)
The 28-year-old with fiancée & their children 

She told i: “We were shocked when Martie went to the assessment last year and was told ‘well, if you can walk in here you’re ok’. We appealed the decision and that was refused and now we are awaiting the outcome of it going to tribunal.

“Martie may not be in a wheelchair – it’s an invisible disability. It’s a struggle for Martie but he has continued to work to provide for us despite his symptoms and we just want a little financial help for costs associated with his illness.”

Anissa has now set up a GoFundMe page to ask the public for help.

Operation too risky

In 2011, Martie began experiencing severe headaches and dizziness and went to his opticians but nothing was wrong with his eyes. When his symptoms worsened a year later, an MRI scan confirmed he had a rosette-forming glioneuronal tumour on his brain stem. This is slow growing and his consultant told him he was one of only around 30 cases worldwide.

In 2012 he had an operation to drain the fluid on his brain and medics said he would have another at a later date to remove the growth. “They told us it would be easier to remove once it grew larger,” said Anissa. “So we tried to get on with our lives and had our children, hoping that surgery one day would cure him.

New PIP system is set up to fail

“Now the tumour is double the size but we’ve been told an operation is too risky due to where the tumour is located, as it could cause significant damage to vital parts of the brain. “We’ve been told chemotherapy and radiotherapy won’t help him, now they’re saying chemo may slow down the growth of the tumour. We don’t feel like the doctors really have a plan.”

The family say they need financial help with extra costs brought by Martie's illness such as travel to hospital appointments (Photo: Anissa Alane)
The family say they need financial help with extra costs brought by Martie’s illness such as travel to hospital appointments 

Every day living challenges

Martie was working as a painter and decorator, but he was forced to give this up when he was diagnosed as it was too dangerous being up ladders. He struggled to find work initially but has now spent the past five years in employment as a cleaner.

Anissa said her partner’s memory problems are challenging. “I work nights and I’d leave him a meal out he could cook for himself but there’s been times he’s left the gas on, he just forgets,” she said. “I have to manage all his appointments. He gets a migraine every day and has days where he can only lie in bed.

Tories spend £200MILLION fighting to stop sick and disabled people getting benefits

“He had to quit one job where he felt under too much pressure and where he works now, at the Newquay Search and Rescue (SAR) base, they are brilliant and make him feel that he can take his time and take breaks when he needs to.”

Extra costs

Anissa said that the family have always wanted to be self-sufficient and they bought their own house in 2016. “We don’t have big salaries and we have a mortgage payment to keep up,” she said. “Martie sees a psychiatrist every two weeks, goes to a physiotherapist, he’s about to start chemo and there’s the scans and check-up appointments – this will all add up in travel costs including hospital parking fees.

Woman with terminal cancer forced to walk to doctors on crutches after mobility car was taken away

“We had gone to Macmillan Cancer Support last year and they said because we both work the only benefit we’d be entitled to was PIP. We went to a brain tumour charity for advise when this was refused and they said this has become a common battle they are seeing with patients.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said:  “We’re determined to ensure that people with health conditions get the support they’re entitled to. Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist. Anyone who is unhappy with a decision can appeal and supply further information in support of their claim.”


Other PIP Atrocities