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Unpaid carer ‘surviving on a can of sweetcorn a day’ after benefits axed

A family carer claims he’s been forced to survive on a can of tuna and sweetcorn a day after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped his benefits, despite being the sole carer for his disabled parents.

John McDermott, 47, spends 18 hours a day providing unpaid care for his disabled father and mentally unwell mother, and was left feeling like a “nervous wreck” after the DWP stopped his Carers Allowance payments.

His father, Patrick, suffers from severe incontinence and dementia, while his mother, Katherine, has Schizophrenia. Both are 77 years-of-age and are entirely dependent on the unpaid care given by their son John.


Mr McDermott says he has been forced to survive on just £93 a week for a shocking 6 months, which is money provided via a direct care arrangement involving his sister.

DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

But in reality, John says he has been fighting for vital support he is parents desperately need for several years, which he says has left him feeling more like 101 than 47.

“It’s been like hell for four years”, he told the Islington Gazette.

“I’m 47 years old but I feel 101. I’ve gone grey and have an ulcer in my stomach.

“The last four years fighting for what is just has left me a nervous wreck – I’ve been screaming out for help.

“I’m surviving on a can of sweetcorn and tuna a day and have been for the past few years now.”

John finally received a backpayment of £1,300 in Carer’s Allowance from the DWP in December 2018, but says the stressful ordeal has had a terrible impact on the family.


“Mum is a schizophrenic,” he said. “And she has been absolutely failed as well.

“She just rocks back and forth every day and thinks shadow people are trying to kill her.

“It’s a great stress on me and all they do is come and give her an injection once every month.”

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John has also now been awarded £2,578 in Housing Benefit, after Islington Council “recalculated” his entitlement due to a “change in circumstances”

An Islington Council spokesperson added: “We’re concerned about the issues raised by Mr McDermott and will meet him to discuss these further.

“A care package is in place and is kept under review.

“We’re working with Mr McDermott to help sort out his benefits and his rent arrears.


“We have not begun any legal action relating to his rent arrears, and he is not at risk of eviction.

“We will do everything we can to help people with housing benefit and will avoid evictions for arrears wherever possible.

“If people are struggling with benefit issues or arrears we recommend they contact us as soon as possible so we can help.”

A DWP spokesperson said is was “important people tell us about their circumstances to ensure they get the right level of support”.

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