Gran battling cancer told she’s ‘fit to work’

Sylvia Allington, right, with her niece Carla Taylor.
Sylvia Allington, right, with her niece Carla Taylor.

A grandmother battling cancer has been told she is fit to work by a Department for Work and Pensions tribunal – despite the fact she has had part of her lung removed and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Sylvia Allington, 53, was told on Friday an appeal against a DWP decision to move her to jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) was unsuccessful and she is deemed ‘fit to work’.

Mrs Allington, of Grove Lea Walk, Pontefract, had lodged the appeal last December following the decision to change her benefit from employment and support allowance (ESA), although she already suffered from high blood pressure, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

However, in June during the appeal process, Mrs Allington was diagnosed with lung cancer after doctors found four tumours. She had surgery to remove a lobe of her lung and is currently receiving chemotherapy, with no clear prognosis from consultants.

Despite providing proof of her cancer treatment to the tribunal, it still rejected the appeal. Also, according to DWP rules, Mrs Allington should have remained on ESA, of £110 a week during the appeal process, but her family say she was moved straight to JSA of £71 a week instead.

Mrs Allington’s niece Carla Taylor, 36, said: “How on earth can a cancer patient be fit for work? Sylvia is absolutely distraught. Not only is she battling cancer, but she has been having to go to the job centre in Pontefract to sign on, and yet she has to provide sick notes.

“If according to them she is fit for work, surely she shouldn’t be providing sick notes that clearly say ‘cancer’ on them?”

The family say Mrs Allington’s money has been stopped on more than one occasion all together, first for five weeks when she put in her appeal against the original decision, and on other occasions when they say her sick notes were lost.

Mrs Allington, a former special constable, said: “I had to rely on crisis loans and was without gas and electric at Christmas. I’m also being docked £10 a week from my JSA for a budgeting loan I had, so after rent and bills I only have £10 a week for food, and I’m supposed to be on a special diet during my treatment. My family help me out, but it shouldn’t be like that.

“I’m in bed for a week after chemo, I can’t do anything, it’s really tiring.

“I have had enough. If it wasn’t for my granddaughter, who’s four weeks old, I don’t know how I could go on. I’m in more debt because of all this.”

Mrs Allington has asked for a breakdown of the DWP decision, and has been told she can re-apply for ESA, but her family has also contact Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper for help.

Ms Cooper said: “The last thing anyone needs is to be worried about financial support when they’re unwell. We argued in Parliament that people going through cancer treatment should not be expected to work or undergo stressful tests.

“So it is awful that Mrs Allington has been put under so much pressure by the job centre at such a difficult time. I have told the job centre to urgently make sure Mrs Allington is getting full support.

“I am also complaining the minister about the pressure she is under. Mrs Allington and her family need this sorted immediately so she can focus on fighting her illness and getting better.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Mrs Allington has informed us of a change in her condition. We are in discussion with her to ensure we have all the necessary medical information, so she can receive the full support available to her.

“People who are awaiting, receiving, or recovering from any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer will be placed in the support group for ESA, where they will get the long-term financial support they need while unable to work.”