A 60-year-old cancer patient awaiting a mastectomy has had her incapacity payment cut and been told to find a job by benefits officers.
Sarah Stradwick, of Donyatt, near Ilminster in Somerset, was handed the judgment after her fitness to work was reassessed in line with government policy.
The carer, who also has a painful leg ulcer and suffers an umbilical hernia, was on employment support allowance of £114 a week and disability living allowance of £78 a month.
But following the Government’s decision to reassess Incapacity benefits, both benefits were been stopped and instead she has been put on job seekers’ allowance of £67 per week.
Private company Atos Healthcare Ltd is carrying out the reviews for the Department for Work & Pensions.
Mrs Stradwick said her bills total more than £400 a month.
But, to add insult to injury Mrs Stradwick said Atos did not understand changes to pensions legislation which mean many women will have to wait beyond their 60th birthday for their State pension.
She said: ‘I was told not to worry because I would be 60 in a couple of months’ time and able to retire.
‘In fact I won’t receive my pension until November 2012 – by which time I will be more than 61.
Helping out: Mrs Stradwick’s MP David Laws says reassessments need to be ‘fair and carefully considered’
‘They are chucking everyone on the woodpile.
‘I just don’t know how I am going to cope. I have no savings.’
Mrs Stradwick said Macmillan Cancer Support has been ‘absolutely wonderful’.
She said: ‘I don’t know where I would be without them and I am appealing the Government’s decision.’
MP David Laws, who is aware of the case, said: ‘I am concerned about this case and am seeking to ensure that Sarah receives the support she needs.
‘It is important that assessments of peoples’ ability to work are fair and carefully considered.’
Mrs Stradwick added: ‘There is no employment here that I could get and the council keep cutting bus services.
‘I have to walk a mile to catch one.
‘I thought I would qualify for a free bus pass when I reached 60 on July 23 but that is not the case. Now you have to be 61 to qualify.’
Mrs Stradwick will be spared signing on for a short while because her GP has signed her off sick for 13 weeks.
‘I have worked since I was 14. This cannot be right,’ she said.
A spokesman for Macmillan Cancer Support said: ‘Like many others, Mrs Stradwick has been facing financial difficulties following her cancer diagnosis and it is vital that people in this situation are not forced into poverty by the welfare system.
‘We are currently campaigning to ensure people living with and beyond cancer like Mrs Stradwick aren’t penalised by changes to the Welfare Reform Bill.’