Real-life story mirrors film about benefits

A hard working mum-of-four who has paid into the system for 30 years has been told she can't claim a penny in benefits.

Thursday, 24th November 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 10:29 am
Sara Pendlebury from Morecambe who is recovering from an urgent operation, has been told she cannot claim benefits whilst she is off sick despite paying into the system for 30 years.

Sara Pendlebury, 51, of Hornby Terrace, Morecambe, has had an urgent operation and can’t work for12 weeks.

But mirroring the current Ken Loach film about joiner Daniel Blake who needs benefits for the first time after an illness, the job centre told her she’s not entitled to anything to help her make ends meet while she’s unable to earn – suggesting instead she contact the foodbank.

Sara and her husband had to start selling their possessions on eBay as a way of earning extra cash.

Former gift shop owner Sara, who has two children still at home, said: “I received a letter telling me that I did not qualify for any Job Seekers Allowance.

“Irrespective of my 30 plus years of hard work, income tax contributions and NI contributions, when I become ill and cannot work, I am entitled to nothing.

“I was told by a DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) operative on the phone that I should go to my local foodbank but I had to remind him I needed to be claiming benefits to access the foodbank.

“I am a socialist, always have been, and I support a welfare state.

“A welfare state is there to support the hard working when times get tough.

“People who work all their lives surely deserve the basic support of a few weeks benefit after a lifetime of contribution?

“It should not matter how much my husband earns. In this house we build our lives around two wage earners, two people forging careers.

“Our essential outgoings reflect this.

“When one of us does not earn we are not able to make ends meet

“Some people live for their benefits, others need benefits to live, there is a chasm between the two.”

A spokesman for Department for Work and Pensions said: “There are rules in place for means-tested benefits to ensure we have a system that is fair for those who use it as well as those who pay for it.

“We continue to spend around £90bn a year supporting families, people with disabilities, people on low incomes and jobseekers.”

“ Reasons for foodbank use are complex so it’s misleading to link them to any one issue and the vast majority of benefits are processed on time.

“We know that work is the best route out of poverty and employment is at a record high.

“But for those who need extra support, we provide a strong safety net through the welfare system, 
including hardship payments, 
benefit advances and budgeting loans.”

MP David Morris said: “‘As I do not have consent to publically discuss Mrs Pendlebury’s case I would just refer her to the detailed response sent to her November 16, 
and if she has any further concerns I would urge her to get back 
in touch with my office, 
and we will give her appropriate advice.”

new figures for foodbank

Morecambe Bay Foodbank is calling for a direct hotline to local job centres to support people in crisis.

New figures released show 750 emergency food parcels were given to local people by Morecambe Bay Foodbank in six months - over 380 went to children.

Annette Smith, manager of Morecambe Bay Foodbank, said: “The proposed DWP hotline would provide vital timely and invaluable trouble-shooting support for people referred to foodbanks.”