Belfast Telegraph

Mum told to complete form saying she will die in six months to end PIP assessments

By Jonathan Bell

A mother of two with terminal cancer has refused to complete a benefits form declaring she has only six months to live.

Lynette McHendry was told it would end the need for lengthy assessments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

She told BBC NI's Stephen Nolan Show how over the past three years, she had undergone numerous procedures since being diagnosed with incurable breast cancer.

When she was assessed for benefits, she was told she could "save some time" if her GP or oncologist completed a form to say she had just six months left to live, as there would be no need for her to complete another assessment.

The 40-year-old mum of two boys aged 11 and 14 outright refused, saying it would be like signing a "death warrant".

"I was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 37 years of age and no matter what age you are, you always have hope you are going to live," she said.

"It's totally unfair - I don't want to think of my last six months of living, and I certainly don't want to think I will be spending those months filling out forms to get a payment to support. It is cruel."

An independent review of PIP assessments published yesterday recommended the requirement for the terminal illness form to be completed be abolished.

The Department for Communities said the process was aligned to the model in Great Britain and it would require a minister to be in place to make the decision on the matter.

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon said given there was political consensus on the matter, all the report's recommendations should be implemented.

Lynette said she had first been on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) after her diagnosis in 2015.

After completing a 90-minute assessment for PIP, which replaces DLA, she was told there was not enough information and she would have to go through a second one.

She said there was no indication of what information was required.

A former civil servant, Lynette reluctantly took the decision to take medical retirement.

But she claims she knows of people who had been forced into signing the form.

"I am lucky I have the safety net of my Civil Service pension, but many don't," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I try to be positive. I've never asked my doctor to estimate how long I have left. I know of girls who asked and are told they have six months and are gone almost to the day.

"You fill out that form and it's almost like you are a step closer, you can get it in your head. I never considered filling out the from. I would rather do without the money."

Under the benefit, Lynette receives a car which her relatives are able to use to transport her to the doctors.

Lynette said it was a lifeline, given that she lives in a remote rural location where there is poor public transport and her self-employed husband only has his work van.

"I push myself... I don't want my kids to see me sick. They ask if you can feed or dress yourself. I will until I am on my death bed and physically can't.

"One form can not adequately address how I live as well as say a paraplegic person or a blind person. It just seems there is no consideration."

Lynette said doctors say there is "no activity" of her cancer.

"I just try getting on with life the best I can and make life for my kids as normal as possible. I try to do a lot myself, like taking supplements or oxygen therapy - to keep fighting.

"I understand PIP is not about the condition you have, but about how it affects your life.

"Having had bilateral breast cancer, bilateral mastectomy, secondary cancer in the brain, three tumours removed from the brain, 19 blood transfusions, 12 months of chemo, the list goes on and they make you go through this process.

"Anyone that thinks what I have been through in the past three years has not affected me, mentally or physically, is deluded. But I have to go through this form to get some sort of entitlement."

Belfast Telegraph

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