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Cancer patient stripped of benefits while undergoing chemotherapy

Marisa Da Silva, of Isleworth, says she was told to apply for work despite the debilitating effects of her treatment

Marisa Da Silva says she was told to apply for work while undergoing chemotherapy

A cancer patient was stripped of her benefits for more than a month while undergoing debilitating chemotherapy following an apparent mix up.

Marisa Da Silva, of Isleworth, was diagnosed in August 2015 with breast cancer and has been unable to work since her treatment began the following month.

The 39-year-old was initially awarded Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), thanks to help from Macmillan Cancer Support to obtain the benefit.

But this payment was withdrawn in November and she says she was told she would need to apply for work to qualify for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

She claims one Jobcentre officer even advised her to hide her condition from potential employers, despite the chemotherapy leaving her unfit to work on all but a few days a month.

Miss Da Silva's ESA payments have now been restored but only after she contacted getwestlondon in desperation, having had to rely on family to pay for her housing and food.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it had not received her application form, outlining her medical condition, until now.

But Miss Da Silva is sceptical, questioning why she received a rejection letter in November and been told by an ESA advisor and Jobcentre staff that she only qualified for JSA.

"No one in need should have to face what I have"

"I've worked in the UK and paid taxes here for 17 years and when I needed support I couldn't even get what I was owed," said the London College of Fashion graduate, who hails from Angola and had been working for a retail company.

"I can't work while I'm having treatment for my cancer as the chemotherapy leaves me vomiting and unable to stand or sit for long periods.

"My experience has been stressful and painful, and I hope that by exposing my story I can help many other young, single women going through cancer finding a voice. No one in need should have to face what I have."

When Miss Da Silva's ESA was stopped, her council tax and housing benefit automatically stopped too, leaving her in even worse financial straits. It is understood they should resume once she begins receiving ESA again.

A DWP spokesman said the majority of people with cancer would receive support group payments for ESA, including anyone preparing for, receiving or recovering from chemotherapy or radiotherapy which will significantly limit their ability to work.

"We understand how worrying a cancer diagnosis is and claims are fast-tracked in these circumstances," he added.

“We ask new ESA claimants to fill out a medical questionnaire detailing their health condition so we can make sure they get the right support from us.

"We have since received Ms Da Silva's form and backdated her benefit claim so she does not lose out."

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