Widowed cancer patient forced to rely on food bank hand-outs refused Universal Credit help

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 December 2019

Deborah Parsons with her dog while climibng Mount Snowdon, 24 hours before discovering she had breast cancer. Pictuire: Deborah Parsons

Deborah Parsons with her dog while climibng Mount Snowdon, 24 hours before discovering she had breast cancer. Pictuire: Deborah Parsons

Archant

A Sidmouth cancer patient, who relies on food bank hand-outs to feed her and her teenage daughter, has been told she doesn’t qualify for more benefit support.

Widower Deborah Parsons , 52, of High Meadow, will not be getting universal credit - which replaced six other benefits with a single monthly payment for those out of work or on a low income.

Mrs Parsons, who has been unable to work for five months after being diagnosed with breast cancer, has been relying on a widowed parents' allowance to pay her mortgage.

She also gets child benefit, a pension from her late husband's employers and income from a lodger.

All of which is not enough to afford groceries and she and her 13-year-old daughter are forced to rely on weekly drop-offs from Sidmouth Food Bank.

DWP said Universal Credit is means tested and all income is taken into account.

Mrs Parsons said the Universal Credit system is 'punitive'.

She said: "The government needs to wake up to how cruel this is.

"I think its designed to shame people back into work but I just think there are people in my position and in full-time work who have to use food banks.

"I would love to be able to go to work - this is what is so frustrating.

"I feel guilty for not working."

Mrs Parsons, who used to run a cleaning business in Sidmouth, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July this year.

She underwent a mastectomy in September, less than a week after her mother died.

The surgery was a success, but she has been undergoing weekly chemotherapy appointments in Honiton to make sure there are no cancer cells that were missed by the procedure.

Mrs Parsons said she hasn't had any additional benefits since she was diagnosed and was last month told to make the nine-mile trip to the Job Centre in Honiton to attend a job coach appointment.

The food bank deliver to her home on a weekly basis, providing a mix of tinned goods, cereals and fruit and vegetables.

A spokesman for DWP said that they cannot comment on specific cases without more information about the individual.

They also said: "Universal Credit is a means tested benefit and takes all income into account when working out entitlement."


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