A cancer patient says she has been forced to rely on the help of food banks after being refused Universal Credit and has called on the government to “wake up to how cruel” the new system is.
Widower Deborah Parsons , 52, has been unable to work for five months after being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.
Deborah was given a mastectomy in September, less than a week after the death of her mother, but is currently undergoing debilitating chemotherapy to ensure that no cancer cells were left behind.
Mrs Parsons, a former business owner, applied for Universal Credit but was told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that she was was entitled for any help because of other earnings.
Mrs Parsons is having to rely on a widowed parents’ allowance to pay her mortgage, but also receives child benefit and income from a lodger.
But Deborah says that this income isn’t enough to cover all of her bills, while also being unable to afford to put food on the table, and is receiving weekly home deliveries from a local food bank to prevent her from going hungry.
Her weekly food bank delivery consist of a mix of tinned goods, cereals, and fruit and vegetables, but no frozen goods.
“The government needs to wake up to how cruel this is”, she told the Sidmouth Herald.
“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.”
Deborah, who says she hasn’t received any other benefits since the cancer diagnosis, was also made to travel nine miles to attend a Jobcentre interview with a work coach.
The Trussell Trust food bank network has warned that more people than ever are being driven to food banks.
The nationwide charity has provided more than 820,000 emergency food parcels to people in the past six months alone, and is calling on our political parties “to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics”.
Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “More people than ever before are being forced to food banks’ doors.
“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.
“This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.
“This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.
“We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”
The Labour Party has pledged to scrap Universal Credit if they win the general election on 12 December.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit is a means tested benefit and takes all income into account when working out entitlement.”