Widow Lyn Coupe has vowed to fight in her dead husband’s name to overturn the decision to axe his £50-a-week incapacity benefit
The couple’s plight was thrust into the spotlight this week by Labour MP Dennis Skinner.
He told the House of Commons that Atos, the private firm behind fitness- to-work tests, was “unfit for purpose” and a “heartless monster”.
Yesterday it was revealed that 150,000 people have raised concerns about the tests run by the healthcare company on behalf of the Government.
Even PM David Cameron criticised “the quality of decision making”.
Lyn’s husband was seriously ill for 24 years with a badly injured back, a heart condition and diabetes.
She said Atos decided he was “capable of limited employment” and his benefit was cut, leaving them with just £71 a week. He appealed but was told a ruling would take almost a year.
David didn’t have a year. He was later diagnosed with cancer and given weeks to live.
In the short time he had he battled to reverse the decision.
“He kept saying ‘I wish I could win this case before I die’,”
said Lyn, 57.
“David got a very rare form of cancer, it took his sight and his hearing, then finally his life. But months before that Atos took his dignity. His doctors and specialist nurses wrote to the firm but never received a reply.”
David, 57, was called to his Jobcentre late last year. Lyn said: “They just took his blood pressure. They never checked his back or asked about his diabetes and the terrible ulcers he had on his legs.
“The computer told them he’d been on the sick for 24 years. That’s the only thing they really knew.”
The ex farm worker and butcher last worked in 1989 when he damaged his back while using a rotavator.
“His health deteriorated from there,” said Lyn. “He became depressed because he’d been so active.
“He worked long hours on the farm. He would leave at 5am and some days I would not see him again until 11pm. He wasn’t scared of work.
“Over the years he developed heart trouble, diabetes and terrible ulcers.”
The benefit cut left the couple reliant on friends and family.
“I was borrowing money off everybody,” said mum-of-one Lyn. “Last winter we couldn’t put the heating on. We had to sit with blankets round us.”
“We were told it would take 10 months to hear the appeal. Well it’s 10 months now, David’s dead and we still haven’t heard a word.”
The deadly cancer started in David’s neck and spread rapidly.
“What sort of madness is that,”
asked Lyn, from Calow, near Chesterfield, Derbys.
“He was deemed fit for work yet the DWP admitted he needed constant care because of his cancer.
“One night I heard him sobbing downstairs. He was blind, almost deaf and in terrible pain, yet they still said he was fit enough to work. He told me ‘I can’t go on. I’m done in duck’.
“All David wanted to do was stay alive long enough to see them pay back the money he was entitled to. Sadly he didn’t live long enough.”
Lyn’s husband of 33 years died on October 7 with his family at his hospital bedside. As she prepares for his funeral, Lyn vowed:
“Now, if I’ve got the strength, I’ll fight on.
“I’m bitter about what they did and won’t let it rest. Other people can’t suffer like we did. David died waiting for an appeal. Mr Cameron and the Tories didn’t kill him but their attack on people claiming benefits made sure his final months were a misery.”
Citizens Advice boss Gillian Guy said:
“Atos is failing thousands of sick and disabled people who bear the brunt of wrong assessments.”
Atos denied classing Mr Coup as “capable of limited employment”.
It said the DWP makes the final decisions on whether claimants are fit to work.
It also said it had not had letters from doctors and nurses about Mr Coup’s cancer.
A spokesman added: “This is a terribly sad case. We will look at the details.”
The DWP said they were only told of Mr Coup’s cancer in September – 10 months after his Atos assessment.