|A cancer sufferer who had paid her National Insurance and taxes for years was forced to endure unnecessary stress and hardship because of benefit delays.|
Lyn Ward, a 56-year-old mother from Bolton, Lancs, has worked since she was 14. But last April, she found out she had breast cancer.
She applied for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship new Personal Independence Payment so that she would be able to take time off work while she underwent treatment, and to help with some of the extra costs like getting to and from hospital.
“We’re the kind of people who don’t go for benefits,” Lyn’s husband, Nigel, told me. “But we knew we would need some help with this.”
Instead, Lyn waited 11 months for an assessment, and even longer for help.
While she was been waiting, she went through an operation to remove the tumour and her lymph nodes, a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
She carried on working as a customer services adviser until her seventh chemotherapy, but then had to admit she couldn’t work anymore. Still no help from the welfare state came.
Eventually, the family’s finances became so tight, that Lyn was forced to go back to work, just days after finishing radiotherapy.
“We had a mortgage to pay,” she says.
“We had still got to pay the bills and we had no help. After 10 months, I’d not even had a letter or phone call from ATOS, never mind an assessment.”
The government says the Personal Independence Payment – worth between £21 and £134.40 a week – is there to help “with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability”.
But the National Audit Office has warned that such delays – averaging 107 days – are causing “distress and financial difficulties”.
After her MP intervened, Lyn’s case was eventually resolved in May this year – 13 months after being diagnosed with cancer.
“It leaves you wondering why you paid your National Insurance and your taxes all those years,” she says. “I don’t blame ATOS, I blame the government.”