Northern Ireland

Strabane cancer woman's fury at benefit cut

Cecila Burns' benefit has been cut by £30 a week
Image caption Cecila Burns' benefit has been cut by £30 a week

A County Tyrone woman who is fighting cancer has said she is "disgusted" after the government cut her sickness benefit and told her she was fit to work.

Strabane woman Cecilia Burns had her Employment Support Allowance reduced by £30 a week even though she is still undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Ms Burns described the medical test as a "joke". The Social Security Agency said everyone who received the benefit must undergo a test for capability to work.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has already confirmed plans to cut benefits by up to £10bn by 2016.

Ms Burns was diagnosed with cancer last year and, since then, has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and is currently receiving the drug, Herceptin.

The course is not due to finish until December this year.

She said dealing with the side effects of the treatment were bad enough, but she had been angered by the cut in benefit after she went for a medical.

"I know there's other people out there and they're all scared to come forward," she said.

Image caption Chancellor George Osborne wants to cut benefits by 2016

"I was treated badly. I've been working since I was 17, I've paid all my stamps, all my National Insurance. The only time I was ever sick was when I was pregnant with my two sons."

Ms Burns said she was still not fit to work, due to the ongoing treatment.

"It has had a financial effect on me but it's more (that) they're getting away with it. They are just treating you like a second class citizen. That's how I feel - that I don't count, I don't matter," she said.

"They don't seem to understand everybody's daily lives. We have so many bills to pay. Even if I was fit to work, where's the work?

"From I was diagnosed there are nights I don't sleep. I just waken up and worry. Cancer takes something from you."

A spokesperson for the Social Security Agency said: "All Employment and Support Allowance customers are subject to the Work Capability Assessment

"It was developed in consultation with medical experts and a range of other customer representative groups to establish how a customers' current health condition impacts on their ability to work."

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