A grandmother died from lung cancer weighing just three stone after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her £177.85-a-week benefits.
Christine McCluskey, 61, from Dundee, Scotland, had several long-term health conditions which left her housebound and she was denied her disability benefits for four months before she died.
At the time of her benefits assessment in May 2018, Christine, who had Crohn’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, a stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was fed through a feeding tube, was worryingly malnourished and had a concerning cough.
Christine McCluskey, 61, from Dundee, Scotland, weighed just three stone when she died in August 2018
The visit was conducted by a private contractor – Independent Assessment Service (IAS), previously known as Atos.
Despite her health issues, the DWP axed her Personal Independence Payments and removed her mobility car based upon the IAS assessment, but continued her Employment and Support Allowance.
When Christine was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer a month later, the DWP still would not reinstate her benefits.
Her daughter, Michelle McCluskey, 42, from Kirkcudbrightshire, told the I: ‘I can’t get my head around how someone could assess my mother as anything but very sick. You only had to look at her to see that.
‘They said she could walk 200 metres based on her having hobbled from the sofa to the door to let them in.’
When she was assessed Christine weighed 5st 5lbs and four months later, when she died, she was just 3st.
Michelle took her mother’s case to tribunal five months after she died and a judge reversed the decision.
She was able to get the payments backdated but said it was ‘too little too late’.
For eight years before her death Christine, who had Crohn’s disease, was fed through a tube for 16 hours a day
Christine was deemed 80 per cent disabled at a medical tribunal in 1986 but sadly her health continued to decline after a stroke in 2005.
She had suffered with Crohn’s disease since her early 20s and for the last eight years of her life had a feeding tube for 16 hours every day.
Her daughter, a mother-of-one, said the report produced by IAS was ‘full of blatant lies’.
Michelle detailed several elements of the report which she deemed incorrect, including the assessment stating her mother could get herself into the bath despite this not being assessed on the visit because she was too frail.
In addition, the assessor noted she was able to tuck her feet underneath her legs, something she did to avoid bed sores from sitting for hours at a time.
She said the report noted her mother’s surgery scars were ‘not that bad’ after only looking at one on her leg when ones on her stomach were seeping and bandaged.
Christine’s daughter is now rallying support for the Scrap 6 Months campaign set up by charities Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
It calls on the government to make it easier for terminally ill people to access the benefits they need without having to jump through hoops during an already stressful time.
Michelle believes the stress of battling the DWP for her benefits contributed to her mother’s rapid decline.
Currently people can only get fast track support if a doctor or clinical nurse completes a DS1500 form informing the DWP the patient has six months left to live.
But health care professionals do not always feel confident in confirming someone only has six months to live, even though they have a terminal condition, and cannot always accurately predict when someone will die.