“Apparently I’ve Lived Too Long For The DWP”
A terminally ill pensioner and lifelong supporter of the Conservatives has hit out at the Government for slashing her disability payment by £80 a week.
Cancer sufferer Susan Whitby’s financial support from the state has plummetted by more than half – from £135 to £55 a week – after she was reassessed for the controversial new Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The ‘stressed, upset and extremely bitter’ Woolbrook Close resident, told by doctors she could have months or years left, feels she has ‘lived too long’ for the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mrs Whitby, 64, said she has paid more into her pension than she will ever live to take out and, with the cash instead going ‘overseas or to the wealthy’, she will never vote for the Tories again.
She has sent an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and East Devon MP Hugo Swire speaking out for herself and the thousands of others she says must be affected.
“The money I was on was just about enough,” said Mrs Whitby. “I’m going to be in treatment indefinitely. Apparently I’ve lived too long for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
“I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of others who don’t know what their life expectancy is.
“The Government will benefit from my pension – I won’t be here in my 80s. After all I have paid in, I deserve a little support now.”
Mrs Whitby was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 40 and was successfully treated with radiotherapy. Three years ago she was ‘shattered’ when doctors said the cancer had returned and spread to her lungs and brain, just months before she was due to retire.
“My oncologist said I could live six months or several years,” said the former legal practice manager. “I just don’t know, but it’s a terminal diagnosis.”
Surgery on her brain meant Mrs Whitby’s driving licence was suspended. She was assessed for the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), put on the ‘enhanced’ rate and later allowed to join the Motability scheme to rent a car when her licence was returned. Mrs Whitby, who has been divorced for 25 years, moved to Sidmouth after her treatment in Rugby to be nearer to her two sons and three grandchildren.
She rented a home in Woolbrook Close assuming she would stay on the higher rate allowance – but in February she was reassessed by the DWP for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP). She lost her car and saw her benefit slashed by £80 a week to £55.
The rate of PIP depends on how conditions affect individuals, rather than the conditions themselves. It is made up of two components – daily living and mobility – each set at a standard or enhanced rate. It requires a face-to-face interview rather than the self-assessment form for the DLA.
Only those who are not expected to live longer than six months qualify for the higher rate daily living component. It has not been explained to Susan why her allowance was cut.
“I’m loathe to leave this house, but I can’t keep losing the money I have,” said Mrs Whitby. “It would have been better not to be on the higher rate in the first place.
“I’m eating into my savings. They’ll probably last 12 months at the most.
“I can’t treat my grandchildren and I daren’t spend anything. I feel like a second class citizen.
“I rely on lifts because I can’t use public transport. My big outing a couple of times a week is to hospital appointments.”
Mrs Whitby said she got involved with the Conservatives in her 40s, raised thousands of pounds and supported Jeremy Wright’s campaign to become an MP.
“I had always voted Conservative, same as my parents did,” said Mrs Whitby. “I suppose it was the natural thing. I wouldn’t vote for them again unless they can see the big mistake they have made.
“I’m speaking out for everyone suffering the way I am.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Decisions on eligibility for PIP are made after consideration of all the evidence, including evidence from the claimant and their GP.
“If a claimant does not agree with a decision on their benefits, they can ask for us to look at it again.”