A single mother with stage four cancer has been denied disability benefit.
Roisin McWilliams, from west Belfast, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma on Christmas Day last year.
Due to her illness, Miss McWilliams had to leave her £1,300-a-month job as a chef because “she couldn’t breathe” after fracturing her rib from coughing.
In April, the 28-year-old applied for Personal Independence Payment after receiving financial support from her family.
Miss McWilliams now lives on £125 Employment Support Allowance a week, but PIP payments could almost double that amount.
What is PIP?
PIP benefit is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as part of a wider reform of UK welfare for people aged between 16-64.
The payment is made to those who have a disability or long-term illness, with the amount based on how the condition impacts someone’s life.
The weekly rate for the daily living part of PIP ranges from £57.30 to £85.60, while those given the mobility part can take home between £22.65 and £59.75 more.
Miss McWilliams’ story emerged as it was revealed that more than 40% of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants in Northern Ireland had their benefit either cut or stopped when they were reassessed for PIP.
According to figures from the Department of Communities, 72,000 DLA claimants were reassessed between June 2016 and May 2018.
Of those, 24% had their payment cut and 19% had it reduced.
Her father, Tom McWilliams told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show the situation was “soul destroying”.
Upon learning the news that her PIP application had been rejected, Roisin said it was “heartbreaking”.
She added: “It was as if the stranger who came out to assess me was telling me that I just wasn’t sick enough and that hurt.”
Miss McWilliams has recently learned she is immune to chemotherapy and that she will need immunotherapy treatment and a stem cell implant.
However, in order to receive the treatment, her consultant must apply for finance.
Tom McWilliams told the Nolan Show the PIP application process was “humiliating” for Roisin.
He added: “To go through that process when you’re suffering with an illness is absolutely demoralising. I am disgusted and so angry”.
The Department of Communities confirmed it would be “reviewing the case in light of any additional information provided”.
Kevin Higgins from Advice NI said it was clear the issue was adding “unnecessary stress on the family”.
“It’s my view that if the system was working well this should not be happening,” he said.
“People are very daunted by the PIP process and very often these are already vulnerable people with significant health problems and illnesses.
He said Advice NI sees issues with PIP on a daily basis.
“It’s an incredibly important benefit. When [people] apply and get turned down it can have devastating impact on households,” he added.
Help and advice is available from the independent Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020.